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Having just discovered these works through these recordings (via a well known on-line music streaming service), I cannot understand for the life of me why they have been so unjustly neglected, or why there are not at least half a dozen enthusiastic reviews. I hesitate to be the first reviewer, because I am not a musician, simply a keen listener gradually exploring the wider repertoire of lesser known composers - and finding many treasures.
Czerny seems to be often regarded as someone who did nothing other than churn out worthy but dull piano exercises by the hundred. I cannot comment on this aspect of his work, although there is no doubt he was exceptionally prolific. I have read that he had several scores on the go at a time, writing a double page of a piece and going round in rotation and taking up the first piece again when the ink was dry. This was on top of a busy teaching career. If these sonatas really were accomplished in this piecemeal fashion, it only enhances a growing admiration for the man. He apparently set out to write "serious" works, "educational" works and "light" works. The sonatas are definitely serious, meaty works.
In the reassessment that is starting to take place, it can be seen how appropriate it is to see Czerny as fitting perfectly into a perceived "gap" between Beethoven and Liszt (who was a pupil of Czerny at one stage). Beethoven entrusted the first performance of his Emperor Concerto to Czerny. To me, through these sonatas, Czerny does not represent a great dip between these peaks, but is virtually their equal.
So much for the background, which seems necessary in this case (gleaned from quick internet research - any corrections gratefully received). Martin Jones recorded the sonatas with a few other works over three sets of two discs each. Volume 1 contains sonatas 5, 6, 8, and 9 plus a nocturne. Though Czerny only wrote two more sonatas, these are relatively early works (no 9 is only (!!) Op 145 - no 11 being Op 730). To me the music and the performances are exceptional throughout, there hardly being a poor movement to my ears. No 6 is a large scale work by any standards, and will take more listening (for me, at least) to get to grips with. 8 and 9, opening the series, are more approachable, though still with 5 and 6 movements respectively. Listening to them was little short of revelatory, given their obscurity. Someone, supposedly a major composer or critic, described Czerny's work as "pale" which is completely mystifying - there is nothing pale whatever about these! I am awestruck by the virtuosity, but it is by no means empty note spinning. There is a deep emotional expression and integrity in well crafted and engaging pieces. Above all there is a large-heartedness and generosity about them, not just in length and number of notes, but in their musicality too.
I know and love the Beethoven sonatas (as a listener). These are not Beethoven, but it is not to say they fall behind in the enjoyment and satisfaction I have no doubt they will continue to provide for many years to come. I have no comparisons for any of the pieces, but the performances and recorded sound strike me as being exceptional. Well done to the performer and the record label for undertaking the project, which deserves to significantly boost the reputation of this woefully under-rated composer.Read more ›