Czerny: Three Characteristic Sonatas for piano 4-hands with violin and cello ad libitum (Op. 119, Op. 120, Op. 121)


  • Composer(s): Carl Czerny
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Cello, Piano 4 Hands, Violin
  • Period: Romantic
  • Publication year: 2022
SKU: C00603 Category:

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For some years now, the figure of Carl Czerny is finally freeing itself from the role of a pedantic and arid teacher – a role in which the preceding generations of musicians used to portray him. CD recordings and the reappearance in print of several scores contributed to give back to this musician his rightful dignity. He is a composer worth of being performed in the concert halls, even though his educational output remains, until today, the reference work for piano students all around the world. In fact, and in spite of the enormous importance of his pedagogical heritage, the educational aspect is just a partial facet of this composer’s output. Indeed, during his lifetime Czerny issued 861 opus numbers, and left 150 more posthumously published works: among these are Symphonies, Piano concertos, Piano sonatas, an enormous quantity of chamber music works, and even sacred and vocal works. To these works, other unpublished ones must be added, along with almost 250 arrangements and transcriptions worth noticing (such as the reductions for solo piano, and for four-hand piano duets, of the symphonic works by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and many other coeval composers). There are also his instructive editions of monumental works by Beethoven, of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, as well as the authorship of several theoretical works, such as the famous Method op. 500, the Treatise on Improvisation op. 200, or the Treatise on Composition op. 600. In sum, Czerny left us a mine of material: better than any other example, it bears witness to the great creativity of his time. The quality of Czerny’s music is indisputably high. Listening to most of his works, one wonders why a composer of this level could have fallen into oblivion for such a long time.
Czerny had the good fortune of being Beethoven’s best pupil, and later of becoming Franz Liszt’s teacher. Indeed, he remained – so to speak – imprisoned in between, and inhibited by these two immense figures. More generally, we can say that Czerny found himself framed between two musical epochs: on the one hand, Classicism, which was evolving toward new styles; on the other, Romanticism, which would powerfully explode more or less at the time of his entering his mature age. This transition, called by many by the conventional name of “Biedermeier”, was Czerny’s golden age. In the two decades between 1815 and 1835, Czerny was a composer of his time. He issued prevailingly pieces in the brilliant style. They were formally irreproachable, and were in vogue for their captivating writing, for their virtuosity and for the pianistic challenges joined to the easy listening they provided to their hearers. In the later years, however, he was able no more to keep pace with the times, which were radically changing. In fact, Czerny’s earliest works are, on average, his most sincere and convincing ones. In those years, Czerny believed in himself, and that was his moment. He composed with such an enthusiasm that it is appealing even in his less developed musical ideas. As his youth passed, and the Romantics arrived, he sought refuge in an attitude of preservation and dissemination of the past. He remained anchored to his own style, writing always carefully, always unexceptionably, but in an idiom which had already faded. Czerny inherited from his famous teacher, Beethoven, many excellent qualities, but not one of the most important ones, i.e. the capability to renovate himself. The first and the last Beethoven are two persons and two composers completely different from each other. Czerny, instead, remains substantially the same composer throughout the four decades of his compositional activity. Still, the fact remains that his music is magnificently written, with great mastery, with a first-order pianism and coloristic skill: these qualities, indeed, were recognised in his works by the likes of Chopin and Stravinsky. Czerny’s output outnumbers Beethoven’s by approximately six times. With numbers in the range of more than 800 published works, it is obvious that one cannot always chisel everything. Still, this is precisely where Czerny’s oeuvre shows its exceptionality, due to the very high average quality he always manages to maintain, and which until now works perfectly in public performances. After more than 170 years of forgetfulness, Czerny is coming back in the concert hall with great success. His music is pleasant, easy to listen to and to understand. It seeks communicativeness and pleasantness, thus becoming extremely modern precisely in our epoch: after our daily stress, we tend to appreciate a healthy distraction more than an intellectual effort. In Czerny’s output, the repertoire for four-hands piano duet occupies a place of the first order. Indeed, he can be classified as the most prolific composer for this ensemble, and this output spans the entire temporal arch of his activity. Among these works, we can find everything: there are pedagogical pieces, works for amateurs, brilliant and light salon pieces, up to concert works which are very difficult on the performative plane and have denser and more significant contents. This is the case with his six Sonatas for four-hand piano duet, which can be divided into three Great Sonatas (op. 10, 178, and 331), and three Character Sonatas with ad libitum accompaniment of violin and cello (op. 119, 120, and 121).
The three Character Sonatas distinguish themselves from the three Great Sonatas for several features. First of all, they have a lesser size (three movements instead of four) and pose less pronounced instrumental requirements. Still, these requirements are absolutely non negligible, though certainly on average inferior to those needed by the other three Sonatas. The composer himself, in the Diabelli edition, indicated these three Sonatas as conceived “à l’usage des élèves avancés”. The Sonatas bear three different characteristic titles: Military, Sentimental, and Pastoral. They precede the usual adjective “et Brillante”, on whose expressive base they develop with a powerful personality. Their composition period is also homogeneous: this cycle was realized around 1826. On the other hand, the Three Great Sonatas saw the light within a twelve-year timeframe (1822-1834 ca.). Last but not least, we observe the presence of an ad libitum accompaniment of violin and cello: this practice was widespread at the time and had been common for a long time. These three Sonatas were published also in editions for four-hand piano only: not only had the individual string parts been removed, but the titlepage also omitted to cite them altogether. It should be said, about this, that these three compositions possess a sense of fulfilment also without the strings; the added parts, for long stretches, are a mere sound carpet or a melodic or rhythmic reinforcement. Still, the complete version of these Sonatas gives back a fascination and a flavour which justify the recovery of these ad libitum parts. The Sonata op. 119, “Military”, opens immediately with a first movement characterized by a march rhythm, with a lively and pompous character. Even the softer and more lyrical second theme is reminiscent of the drum’s rhythm, with its rapid quintuplets. After a calmer and more singing second movement, interrupted only by a robust (“con fuoco”) central section, the Sonata closes with a long and characteristic folklike Rondò, “Allegretto à l’Hongroise”. Here we can clearly notice the imitation of the cymbalom and of the turqueries, amid virtuoso passages, cadenzas, and even a fugato. Sonata op. 120, “Sentimental”, has a diametrically opposed character with respect to the preceding one. It is expressive, elegant, rich in rubatos and cadenzas. It is in a perfect Biedermeier style, with a truly remarkable thematic richness. After a pleasing and extremely captivating first movement (where it is impossible not to notice its kinship with Beethoven’s Rondo op. 51 no. 2), we find in the following Adagio one of Czerny’s most beautiful pages, full of tenderness and sudden outbursts of passion. The final Rondo, noble and flowing, at times with a Schubert-like flavour, closes the Sonata allowing for some moments in the brilliant virtuosity cherished by the composer.
Having cited Beethoven with regard to the Sentimental Sonata, we cannot omit to link the Pastoral Sonata op. 121 to the experience lived by Czerny as a boy who was close to Beethoven when he was writing his Sixth Symphony.
The choice of the same key (F major) and the numerous, easily recognisable homages throughout the work bear witness to it. Still, we must acknowledge that Czerny took inspiration from his famous predecessor, but finally chose a completely different path. The aspiration and destination of this Sonata are in fact very different from those of Beethoven’s Symphony. However, the care deployed by the composer in this work and the elegance with which he treats his instrument and the musical material are immediately evident. The pastoral character emerges in every element; here virtuosity has a principally ornamental function. Czerny makes the storm arrive already in the development of the first movement; the hunting horns are announced at the end of the Adagio, and he caps it all with a Rondo (“La Chasse”) where the hunting horns have a protagonist’s role, up to the stretto of the final Presto. We cannot and should not compare Czerny’s “Pastoral” and the ones by Beethoven (including op. 28). However, it is certainly interesting to enjoy the listening of this rarity, and to observe commonplaces and differences in the aural fresco of nature painted at that time. Already in 1852 Robert Cocks, one of the most important music publishers of the time, wrote in his London paper “Musical Miscellany” that “Carl Czerny, [Beethoven’s] friend and pupil, is almost the only surviving link to connect the memory of Beethoven with the existing world”
Today Czerny speaks of himself again; he speaks of his time and of Beethoven’s great teaching. He does this through his works, which fell for too long a time into oblivion. But, finally, they come back and resound, with increasing frequency and deservedly, in the concert hall.
Rodolfo Alessandrini, Sara Bartolucci © 2022


Augusto Gasbarri
Since 2014 Augusto Gasbarri is the Principal Cello of the Orchestra della Toscana, before that he was cello tutti in the Orchestra of the Teatro Regio in Turin and he collaborated with the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Camerata Salzburg, I Solisti Aquilani and the Orchestra Mozart conducted by C. Abbado.
In 2014, in order to give expression to his enthusiasm for chamber music, he founded the Vox Piano Trio with Irene Novi (piano) and Clarice Curradi (viola). His collaboration with the Ensemble Alraune is very intense, mainly concerts, but they recently recorded the third volume of a CD series dedicated to music censured by totalitarian regimes "Music and Regime" and "Quartetti Concertanti op.21 by G.Cambini" for NovAntiqua Records.
Since 2017 he works as cello teacher at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole.
He was born in Chieti, and studied with Massimo Magri at the Conservatory "L. D'Annunzio" in Pescara where he graduated with honors. He then continued his studies at the Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg with Enrico Bronzi. In 2017 he attended chamber music masterclasses with the Trio di Parma and the course Baroque Cello and Baroque Practices with B. Hoffmann at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole.
From 2002 to 2004 he was a member of the Italian Youth Orchestra where he met P. Farulli, B.Baraz, M. Zigante, A. Nannoni.

Born in Assisi in 1987, she began studying the violin at the age of three. At the age of ten she joined the class of Maestro Daniel Gay at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan and in 2007 graduated with top marks and honors. In 2014 she concluded her studies most successfully at the University of music of Lübeck in the class of Elisabeth Weber.
She has participated in Masterclasses with Salvatore Accardo and Shlomo Mintz and followed a course of specialization at the Accademia Chigiana with Giuliano Carmignola, receiving the certificate of merit.
She has also attended specialization courses held by the Debussy Trio at the Academy of Pinerolo. Franziska is a founder of Quartetto Lyskamm, recently awarded with the second price at the “Schubert und die Musik der Moderne” competiton in Graz and winner of Premio Rimbotti in 2014.
As a quartet she studied with the Artemis Quartet at the University of Arts of Berlin and at the European Chamber Music Academy(Ecma). She is now Masterstudent of Prof. Heime Müller at the Music University of Lübeck.
The quartet played already in many prestigious concert venues such as Società del Quartetto in Milan, MiTo Settembre Musica Festival, Unione Musicale in Turin, “I suoni delle Dolomiti” Festival performing with the cellist Mario Brunello.
She collaborates with mdi ensemble, a Milan group devoted to contemporary music, and with the “Repertorio Zero” where the musicians of the mdi ensemble ,using both electrical and concrete instruments, received the award Leone d’Argento at the 2011 Biennale di Venezia. She plays also with Eutopia, ensemble in residence at the Teatro della Tosse of Genua.
In the orchestral field she collaborates with the Orchestra Regionale Toscana as head of the second violins, with the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, with the Orchestra “Leonore”, with the Regio Theater of Torino and Peteuzzelli Theater of Bari. She won the “Ferenc-Fricsay” scholarship in 2011 of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and was awarded the opportunity to participate for one year to the concert activity at the Philharmonie Berlin.
She has been concertmaster in the youth orchestra “Luigi Cherubini” conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti and in the Orchestra dell’Accademia Mozart.
Under the direction of Claudio Abbado she was given the opportunity to collaborate with the Orchestra Mozart.

Sara Bartolucci and Rodolfo Alessandrini celebrated 30 years of professional activity as Firenze Piano Duo in 2021.
Appreciated for their perfect ensemble and stylistic attention, winners of important Piano Competitions including the Internationals of Rome and Stresa, they have performed in Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Japan and the United States, presenting a vast repertoire including all eras (over 150 opus numbers) and largely unknown (over 50 first performances). They have recorded CDs for Brilliant Classics, presenting the complete Anton Rubinstein's work in 3CD as a world premiere and participated in the complete Chopin's work. They have also recorded world premieres of Pratella's music for Mudima (Swiss Radio), and for Rosalba Records they recorded movie music in their own transcriptions. They published 4 hands works for Carisch (Czerny and Calligaris), Schott (Rota) and they are curators of a large publishing project for piano duo: the Four Hands Editions (Da Vinci), which is reprinting the most significant compositions in Urtext edition by over thirty authors, including Chopin, Czerny, Kozeluch, Martucci, Pleyel, Ponchielli, Rubinstein, etc. Pupils of Rosa Maria Scarlino and Stefano Fiuzzi respectively, they trained as a duo with Duo Moreno-Capelli and Dario De Rosa, then specializing at the Imola Academy with Stefano Fiuzzi in Fortepiano and Romantic Piano, obtaining the Master's Degree. The Duo has embarked on a specialization on ancient instruments thanks to a ten-year passion for fortepianos and the performance practice of the time that they were able to cultivate thanks to constant contact with the prestigious Bartolomeo Cristofori Academy in Florence. In addition to the traditional repertoire on fortepiano, they have already presented first performances by various authors, including Czerny, Pleyel, Soliva, Dittersdorf, Elsner etc. on instruments by Johann Schantz, Conrad Graf, Wilhelm Lange and Ignace Pleyel. The two pianists also stood out for their passionate activity as organizers of musical events. They were founders and Artistic Directors, among other events, of the "City of Cesenatico" Piano Competition and are Artistic Directors of the historical "Muzio Clementi" National Piano Competition. Currently they are teaching piano in the Conservatories of Foggia and Potenza and piano duet in Scuola di Musica di Fiesole.


Carl Czerny: (b Vienna, 21 Feb 1791; d Vienna, 15 July 1857) Austrian piano teacher, composer, pianist, theorist and historian. As the pre-eminent pupil of Beethoven and the teacher of many important pupils, including Liszt, Czerny was a central figure in the transmission of Beethoven’s legacy. Many of his technical exercises remain an essential part of nearly every pianist’s training, but most of his compositions – in nearly every genre, sacred and secular, with opus numbers totalling 861, and an even greater number of works published without opus – are largely forgotten. A large number of theoretical works are of great importance for the insight they offer into contemporary musical genres and performance practice.

The primary source of information about Czerny is his autobiographical sketch entitled Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben (1842). In it, he describes his paternal grandfather as a good amateur violinist, employed as a city official in Nimburg (Nymburk), near Prague. Czerny’s father, Wenzel, a pianist, organist, oboist and singer, was born there in 1750, and received his education and a good musical training in a Benedictine monastery near Prague. After marriage, Wenzel settled in Vienna in 1786, where he earned a meagre existence as a music teacher and piano repairman. Czerny, an only child, was born in Vienna in the year of Mozart’s death. He and his parents resided together until his mother’s death in 1827, and his father’s in 1832. He never married, and lived alone for the remainder of his life.

Czerny describes his childhood as ‘under my parents’ constant supervision… carefully isolated from other children’. He began to study the piano with his father at an early age, and by ten was ‘able to play cleanly and fluently nearly everything of Mozart [and] Clementi’. His first efforts at composition began around the age of seven. In 1799, he began to study Beethoven’s compositions, coached by Wenzel Krumpholz, a violinist in the Court Opera orchestra, who introduced him to Beethoven when he was ten. Czerny played for him the opening movement of Mozart’s C major Piano Concerto, k503, the ‘Pathétique’ Sonata, and the accompaniment to Adelaide, which his father sang. Beethoven indicated that he wanted to teach Czerny several times a week, and told his father to procure C.P.E. Bach’s Versuch. Czerny describes the lessons as consisting of scales and technique at first, then progressing through the Versuch, with the stress on legato technique throughout. The lessons stopped around 1802, because Beethoven needed to concentrate for longer periods of time on composition, and because Czerny’s father was unable to sacrifice his own lessons in order to take his son to Beethoven. Czerny neverthless remained on close terms with the composer, who asked him to proofread all his newly published works, and entrusted him with the piano reduction of the score of Fidelio in 1805.

In 1800, Czerny made his public début in the Vienna Augarten hall, performing Mozart’s C minor Concerto k491. He was renowned for his interpretation of Beethoven’s work, performing the First Concerto in C major in 1806, and the ‘Emperor’ in 1812. Beginning in 1816 he gave weekly programmes at his home devoted exclusively to Beethoven’s piano music, many of which were attended by the composer. Apparently he could perform all of Beethoven’s piano music from memory. Although his playing was praised by many critics (‘uncommonly fiery’, according to Schilling), he did not pursue a career as a performer. He made arrangements for a concert tour in 1805, for which Beethoven wrote a glowing testimonial, but although he describes himself at this time as quite proficient as a pianist, sight-reader and improviser, he concedes that ‘my playing lacked the type of brilliant, calculated charlantry that is usually part of a travelling virtuoso’s essential equipment’. For these reasons, in addition to political instability and the modest income of his family, he chose to cancel the tour. He also apparently decided at this point never to undertake the life of a travelling virtuoso, a path that would have made him more widely known as a performer. Instead, he decided to concentrate on teaching and composition.

He spent a good deal of time with Clementi when the latter was in Vienna in 1810, becoming familiar with his method of teaching, which Czerny greatly admired and incorporated into his own pedagogy (His op.822 is entitled the Nouveau Gradus ad Parnassum). In his early teens Czerny began to teach some of his father’s students. By the age of 15, he was commanding a good price for his lessons, and had many pupils. In 1815, Beethoven asked him to teach his nephew, Carl. As his reputation continued to grow, he was able to command a lucrative fee, and for the next 21 years he claims to have given 12 lessons a day, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., until he gave up teaching entirely in 1836. In 1821, the nine-year-old Liszt began a two-year period of study with Czerny. The teacher noted that ‘never before had I had so eager, talented, or industrious a student’, but lamented that Liszt had begun his performing career too early, without proper training in composition. Czerny also taught Döhler, Kullak, Alfred Jaëll, Thalberg, Heller, Ninette von Bellevile-Oury and Blahetka.

Around 1802, Czerny began to copy out many J.S. Bach fugues, Scarlatti sonatas and other works by ‘ancient’ composers. He describes learning orchestration by copying the parts from the first two Beethoven symphonies, and several Haydn and Mozart symphonies as well. He published his first composition in 1806 at the age of 15: a set of 20 Variations concertantes for piano and violin op.1 on a theme by Krumpholz. Until he gave up teaching, composition occupied ‘every free moment I had’, usually the evenings. The popularity of his first ten opus numbers issued in 1818–19, and of his arrangements of works by other composers, made publishers eager to print anything he would submit, and he earned a substantial amount from his compositions.

The quantity and diversity of Czerny’s compositional output is staggering. He divided his works into four categories: 1) studies and exercises; 2) easy pieces for students; 3) brilliant pieces for concerts; and 4) serious music. As Kuerti (1995, p.7) notes, it is interesting and revealing that he did not regard the ‘brilliant pieces for concerts’ as ‘serious music’. The compositions for piano illustrate the explosion in the number of works published for the instrument at a critical time in its development. In addition to approximately 100 technical studies, Czerny published piano sonatas, sonatinas and hundreds of shorter works, many of which were arranged for piano, four to eight hands. He also published a plethora of works based on national anthems, folksongs, and other well-known songs. Works for other instruments and genres include much symphonic and chamber music, as well as sacred choral music. Mandyczewski’s tabulation of the works remaining in manuscript in the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde includes over 300 sacred works. Czerny published approximately 300 arrangements without opus numbers. These works are based on themes from approximately 100 different operas and ballets, plus symphonies, overtures and oratorios by such composers as Auber, Beethoven, Bellini, Cherubini, Donizetti, Halévy, Handel, Haydn, Hérold, Mendelssohn, Mercadante, Meyerbeer, Mozart, Rossini, Spohr, Verdi, Wagner and Weber.

The predominant view of Czerny at the end of the 20th century – of the pedagogue churning out a seemingly endless stream of uninspired works – is that propagated by Robert Schumann in his reviews of many Czerny compositions in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (‘it would be hard to discover a greater bankruptcy in imagination than Czerny has proved’, review of The Four Seasons, 4 brillant fantasias op.434). However, Schumann’s rather cavalier dismissal of Czerny was not uniformly shared. During his sojourn in Vienna (1829), Chopin was a frequent visitor at Czerny’s home, and a good deal of correspondence between the two survives. One of Liszt’s letters from Paris to his teacher in Vienna (26 August 1830) describes his performances of Czerny’s Piano Sonata no.1 in A major op.7, and the work’s enthusiastic reception. He urged Czerny to join him in Paris. Liszt’s high regard is again seen in his inclusion of Czerny as one of the contributors to his Hexaméron, the Grand Variations on the March from Bellini’s I puritani, arranged by Liszt, and including variations by Chopin, Czerny, Herz, Liszt, Pixis and Thalberg, composed in 1837. Perhaps even more striking and challenging is Kriehuber’s famous portrait (1846), which depicts, assembled around Liszt at the piano (in addition to a self portrait of the painter), Berlioz, Czerny and the violinist Heinrich Ernst, who was regarded as one of the greatest virtuosos of the 19th century. All are lost in the Romantic reverie evoked by Liszt’s performance. Perhaps this symbolizes Beethoven’s spirit as transmitted by Czerny to Liszt, Berlioz and Ernst.

Czerny’s complete schools and treatises combine sound pedagogy with remarkable revelations about contemporary performing practices, and present a detailed picture of the musical culture of the day. He assigned prominent opus numbers to his four most ambitious instructional works. In the Fantasie-Schule, opp.200 and 300, he uses stylized models and what he terms a ‘systematic’ approach to improvising preludes, modulations, cadenzas, fermatas, fantasies, potpourris, variations, strict and fugal styles and capriccios. His Schule des Fugenspiels, op.400, comprising 12 pairs of preludes and fugues, is intended as a study in multi-voiced playing for pianists. His most substantial work, the Pianoforte-Schule, op.500, covers an extraordinary range of topics, including improvisation, transposition, score reading, concert decorum and piano maintenance. The fourth volume (added in 1846) includes advice on the performance of new works by Chopin, Liszt and other notable composers of the day, as well as on Bach and Handel, and Czerny also draws on his reminiscences of Beethoven’s playing and teaching. In his last major treatise, the Schule der praktischen Tonsetzkunst, op.600, he returns to the models of form and descriptions of style first expounded in his op.200, but here uses them for the instruction of composers.

Czerny’s works reveal, in addition to the familiar pedagogue and virtuoso, an artist of taste, passion, sensitivity, drama, lyricism and solitude. Douglas Townsend sees in the four-hand sonata in C minor op.10 (Sonata sentimentale) a fine example of the composers who straddled the classical tradition and early romanticism. Kuerti (1995, p.491) has described the Third Sonata in F minor op.57 as ‘outstandingly original’; because it is in the same key and carries the same opus as Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’, Kuerti suggests that Czerny may have been challenging his former master to a duel in the work. Townsend describes the Concerto in C major for piano four hands and orchestra, op.153 as ‘an interesting example of the late classical piano concerto combined with the emerging bravura piano technique of the mid-nineteenth century’. Certain of the exercises stand as fine compositions in their own right, such as some of the character pieces found in the Left Hand Etudes, op.718, and the Art of Finger Dexterity, op.740.

Czerny’s will (published in Dwight’s Journal of Music, 15 August 1857) details the sizable fortune he had amassed from his published works and wealthy pupils. He left his considerable library to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.


from From New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians