Czerny: Piano Sonatas

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Czerny
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2: No. 1 in A flat, Op. 7; No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13; No. 7 in E minor, Op. 143; No. 11 in D flat, Op. 730; Sonatine in A, Op. 167; Chanson sans Paroles, Op. 795; Character Etude, Op. 755
PERFORMER: Martin Jones (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5863/4

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Czerny has never lived down Schumann’s damning criticism: ‘it would be hard to discover a greater bankruptcy in imagination,’ exacerbated by the experience of generations of piano students winding up their finger ‘velocity’ with tediously repetitive Czerny exercises. All the more reason to welcome this revelatory series from Martin Jones, champion of the undeservedly neglected. 

Czerny’s style stands between the taut motivic approach of Beethoven and the lyricism of Schubert. The opening of Sonata 11 displays his melodic gift, sustained through some impressively testing pianism – he was a pupil of Beethoven, and teacher of Liszt who held him in the highest regard.

In details too Czerny displays unexpected delights; in the same sonata, an endearing ‘afterthought’ melody in the exposition, a couple of unexpected bars of sliding chromaticism. Two of the sonatas have a gratuitous fifth fugal movement, heritage perhaps of the 11-year-old Czerny copying out Bach fugues. 

The first sonata, from a 19 year-old, is less striking, though its Presto agitato is well fired-up in imagination and technical demands. A ‘Character Etude’ based on right-hand thirds is strikingly lovely. 

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Excellent sound (bar an occasionally strident high note (f””)) and masterly performance make this an unmissable addition to large-scale piano music on disc. George Pratt