Carl Czerny

Austrian composer and pianist (1791-1857)

Carl Czerny (21 February 179115 July 1857) was an Austrian composer, teacher, and pianist.

The young Czerny. Picture based on the original by Joseph Lanzedelly the Elder
Czerny introduces his pupil Franz Liszt to Beethoven. Drawing by Rudolf Lipus.

Quotes about Czerny

  • I certainly think Czerny’s large pianoforte [Op. 500] is worthy of study, particularly in regard to what he says aboutBeethoven and the performance of his works, for he was a diligent and attentive pupil…Czerny’s fingering is particularly worthy of attention. In fact I think that people today ought to have more respect for this excellent man.
    • Johannes Brahms, to Clara Schumann in a letter of March 1878
  • Czerny believed that finger development must be built solely on mechanical gymnastics. His method was one of endless repetition, of constant pecking at one spot…Czerny believed in first developing technique independently from music, then making this technique eventually serve the realisation of artistic aims. For the first time the full separation of mechanics and music was pronounced clearly and frankly.
    • George Kochevitsky, The Art of Piano Playing: A Scientific Approach
  • At the age of eleven, I had conceived an ardent desire to meet the great pedagogue Karl Czerny… My father had had lessons from the renowned teacher, so that I was well prepared to derive immediate benefit from his valuable instruction… It has been somewhat the fashion to underrate the services this really great man rendered to pianism; but we have only to point to the list of distinguished virtuosi who have come to him as to a fountain-head – Liszt, Thalberg, Döhler, Kullak … His studies are very valuable. He may well be called the Father of Virtuosi… His manner of teaching was somewhat that of an orchestral director. He gave his lessons standing, indicating the different shades of tempo and colouring by gestures. Czerny insisted principally on accuracy, brilliancy, and pianistic effects.
    • Theodor Leschetizky, quoted in A. Potocka, Theodore Leschetizky (1903)
  • No on understands better than he [Czerny] the way to strengthen the weakest fingers or by beneficial musical exercises to make study less burdensome without sacrifice of taste.
    • Ignaz Moscheles, recorded in Nohl, Beethoven’s Leben, (Leipzig, 1867), 77., quoted by Donald W. MacArdle, “Beethoven and the Czernys” 1958, in Gerald Abraham Monthly Musical Record July-August 1958, Issue: 88, 128.
  • Carl Czerny, “the dry and methodical genius” who has tortured generations of pianists with an inexhaustible stream of studies and exercises, established that it is possible to render on the piano one hundred dynamic gradations encompassed between limits which I shall term “not yet tone” and “no longer tone”.
    • Heinrich Neuhaus, The Art of Piano Playing
  • Carl Czerny, the nephew’s teacher, was much less devoted to these [Clementi’s] sonatas, and for this and other pedagogical reasons a disagreement arose between him and Beethoven, as a result of which lessons with him were discontinued. He was replaced by Joseph Czerny, a much better teacher than Carl… Under the new teacher’s guidance the nephew advanced along the road prescribed by his uncle.
    • Anton Felix Schindler, (1860) Beethoven as I Knew Him, Jolly, S. Constance, trans., Donald W. MacArdle, ed., (1966)
  • Czerny very frequently uses the words ‘humor, humorous, fantastic’ to describe the character of certain movements without even so much as hinting how such a character is to be presented. In one place he does say, “By the successful mastery of all mechanical difficulties.” But if that were all that was required, we would nowadays have hundreds of outstanding Beethoven pianists.
    • Anton Felix Schindler, (1860) Beethoven as I Knew Him, Jolly, S. Constance, trans., Donald W. MacArdle, ed., (1966)
  • It is, however, part of the unfortunate nature of the virtuoso [Czerny] that he demeans all these hard-won accomplishments and wishes to substitute technique for spirit.
    • Anton Felix Schindler, (1860) Beethoven as I Knew Him, Jolly, S. Constance, trans., Donald W. MacArdle, ed., (1966)
  • Not even with all one’s critical speed is it possible to catch up with Herr Czerny. Had I enemies, I would, in order to destroy them, force them to listen to nothing but music such as this. The insipidity of these variations is really phenomenal.
    • Robert Schumann, On Music and Musicians (1854); Paul Rosenfeld, trans., Konrad Wolff, ed. (1969)
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