A copycat? Perhaps. But a copycat of Ludwig van Beethoven is still a damned good composer. He mastered the technique, he mastered the style, he had a tremendous good ear and he was a successful businessman besides being an excellent pianist and teacher. Carl Czerny. Right, the one who wrote hundreds of piano training exercises. Two weeks ago I happened to blast Czerny’s Symphony No. 5 in E flat major across our home and my daughter crossed the kitchen imitating a swimmer. Right, you can plunge into this music like into a swimming pool, it’s like clear, luke warm water, you can float, the sun is shining upon your face, it’s a pure delight.
A courageous copycat
Czerny lived between 1791 an 1857; he was a student of Beethoven and he performed the solo part at the premiere of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major “Emperor”. In 2017 I dedicated a post about this concerto to my daughter as she truly liked the piece. She has a very good taste and the fact that she likes both pieces point to the many parallels in the musical language of Beethoven and Czerny. A copycat? Certainly. But a very courageous one, as Beethoven was a towering figure in the world of music already during his life and to dare to write similar music – it took someone like Czerny. A freak, undeterred by public opinion, someone for whom composing, performing and promoting exceptional music was the essence of life. A true product of Vienna.
Vienna versus Gioachino Rossini
In a letter to his pupil Franz Liszt, Czerny wrote in 1824 that “Vienna is for a musician and more specifically for a pianist the last and highest authority, a judgment from Vienna is recognized all over the world als true and the spirit of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and so many more [who lived here] cannot be annihilated by the most stubborn Rossinism.” Rossini! The Italian opera composer was swimming on a wave of popularity in Vienna at the time and challenging the old masters. Two years before, Rossini had visited Beethoven in Vienna and the master had told his younger colleague to write exclusively comical operas since “you [Rossini] have not sufficient knowlegde of music to deal with real drama”. Too bad the Vienna public had “recognized” Rossini as the new opera star despite the misgivings of Beethoven and Czerny.
Czerny’s Symphony no. 5 has been recorded by the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt, and I warmly recommend it. It is extremely pleasant, entertaining music, heavily influenced by the Vienna classic era, but anticipating already the Romantic era. What more could I ask for?
© Charles Thibo