ALBUM TITLE: Czerny
WORKS: String Quartets: in D minor; in A minor; in D; in E minor
PERFORMER: Sheridan Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: Capriccio C 5234
As a sometime pupil of Beethoven – who chose him to present the Vienna premiere of the Emperor Concerto – Carl Czerny enjoyed a ringside seat during the creation of some of Beethoven’s boldest works; yet as a composer in his own right he’s perhaps best known as the creator of an avalanche of technique-building studies for the aspiring pianist. Later he would dismiss these exercises as ‘childish pranks’, but he only published two symphonies and no string quartets despite writing between 20 and 40 of the latter. Estimates vary. Sheridan Ensemble cellist Anna Carewe even speculates that two quartets receiving their premiere recordings here may well be also enjoying their first performances.
Czerny seems to have produced them in the last decade of his life, but the models are inescapably earlier. A Haydnesque sense of proportion prevails – in the inner movements of the D major Quartet, several turns of phrase suggest Haydn too – and Czerny’s finely-honed sense of tension and release, of texture and discourse, owes much to Schubert and Mendelssohn. It’s music that knows the rules and is happy to abide by them.
The Sheridans are stylish advocates. They match the Viennoiserie with performances oozing that very Viennese quality of Gemütlichkeit. And their impeccable taste, sensitivity and refinement never overload the music with more import than it can bear. There’s a naturalness that assumes no special pleading is required, yet none of Czerny’s conversational felicities are allowed to pass unnoticed. German Radio’s warmly responsive recorded sound enhances an exemplary set. Paul Riley