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Carl Czerny (21 February 1791 – 15 July 1857) is the household name for a composer of pianistic pedagogy literature and etudes. His best known collection of etudes are: Op.599, Practical Method for Beginners ,Op.299, The school of Velocity, and Op.740 Art of Finger Dexterity. Among his teachers were also Clementi, Hummel, Salieri and Beethoven.
Although his name was linked to the idea of boring and torturous exercises for piano, vast musical production of more than a thousand pieces and up to Op. 861 is being rediscovered, some of which received their world premiere performance as recent as in June 2002. His little known cycle of nocturnes fall into the oeuvre of rediscovered works.
Czerny composed seventeen nocturnes in his lifetime. Czerny's piano nocturnes show and maybe anticipate some of the elements presents in Chopin nocturnes. Areas which are evident are the rhythmic fluidity and the intimate character.
A rediscovery of Czerny’s music and recent recording by the French pianist Isabelle Oehmichen, of the cycle of Piano Nocturnes by Czerny sheds new light to the influences that Chopin may have been in the creation his piano Nocturnes- a possibility based on recorded accounts that Chopin stayed with Czerny in Vienna in 1828 when Chopin was initiating his Nocturnes cycle.
Opus 647 La Reine (The Queen)
This nocturne was dedicated to Her Royal and Imperial Highness Marie Paulowna, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.
This nocturne is in the key of E-flat, in compound duple time. The main melodic material is found within the first eight measures of the piece. Czerny expands this melodic material by adding octaves in the left hand accompaniment parts, spinning out the melody by setting them to groups of 64th notes in m. 21, and doubling certain voices to produce a thicker sonority. The opening melodic material is heard four times throughout the piece. A contrasting animato section on the third page marks a change from a lyrical section to a more agitated and rhythmically active passage. There is also a modulation to the key of A-flat minor. The right hand chords are played in 32nd triplets, against the octave melody in the left hand. Czerny modulates the piece once more to the key of B major before returning to the home key of E-flat major.
When comparing this nocturne to Chopin’s E-flat major Nocturne Op.9 No. 2, the following similarities can be noted:
1. Compound time
2. Same regions on the Right Hand register on the keyboard
3. ‘spinning out’ of melodic materials by the addition of ornaments
4. Perfect fourth opening interval in the melodic line
5. Descending-ascending motion of voices below the melodic line
6. Multiple returns of the main melody through-out the piece
The main differences between Chopin’s and Czerny’s nocturne, is a lack of a contrasting animato section, a thinner texture in Chopin’s and, less bravura sections in Chopin’s. The left-hand figuration of the Chopin nocturne also stays fairly constant throughout the piece. Chopin OP.9. NO.2
I chose to discuss this piece because of the recent premier recording of Czerny’s nocturnes. Learning about his 17 nocturnes has shed a light on the more intimate and personal side of Czerny’s character. It is also interesting to study how Chopin has been influenced by Czerny’s nocturnes. These pieces contain endearing melodies that touches the soul and epitomizes the form of nocturnes.