Czerny: 48 Preludes & Fugues

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Carl Czerny, a famous pianist and teacher, student of Beethoven, wrote an immense oeuvre for the piano, in which his prodigious technique could be shown to the greatest advantage. His many didactical works, the Etudes, are daily fare for every aspiring young pianist, cruel but nourishing! Czerny’s Op. 856 contains 48 Preludes and Fugues in all major and minor keys.

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Composer: Carl Czerny
Artist: Emanuele Delucchi (piano)

A little-known ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ for the 19th century in a superbly engineered new version.

Long known as Beethoven’s pupil, Liszt’s teacher and the bane of countless piano students ever since as the prolific author of exercises and studies which have won foundational status in their importance for piano technique, Carl Czerny (1791-1858) is finally gaining recognition as a composer in his own right. During the 19th century, while his pupils were still alive to play them, his concertos still enjoyed a measure of familiarity and success, but Czerny’s sheer industry obscured his creative achievements: where should a listener start with a catalogue of opus numbers into the four figures?

The 48 Preludes and Fugues in the present collection are as good a place to start as any, especially for anyone familiar with their obvious inspiration in the Old Testament of contrapuntal technique assembled by Bach across two volumes of The Well-Tempered Clavier. Czerny would hardly claim to live up to the Leipzig master’s probing depths of expression or originality of melodic inspiration, but his set nonetheless boasts pleasures of its own, starting with the C major Prelude which puts a rhapsodic gloss on Bach’s immortal introduction. And as early as the A minor Fugue we find a subject of notable individuality as well as the craft on Czerny’s part to carry off a five-minute fugue of many grave beauties. There are more contemporary contrapuntal devices on show, too, such as the interludes of the fugues in Nos. 14 and 22. Overall the composer takes pains to integrate the principles of High-Baroque counterpoint with the ‘galant’ style that preceded the Biedermeier in the early decades of the 19th century, making this a collection at once in and outside its time.

In 2017 Emanuele Delucchi gave the first known performance of Czerny’s Op. 856 in modern times, and this is only the second recording. Born in 1987 and based in Milan, he specialises in the super-virtuoso repertoire of the late-19th century, recording much-admired albums of music by Alkan, Godowsky and d’Albert. This is his fifth album for Piano Classics.

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Der Pianist im Klassischen Style, Op. 856:
0:00:00 I. Prelude in C Major. Allegretto
0:02:31 II. Fugue in C Major. Allegro moderato e maestoso
0:05:30 III. Prelude in A Minor. Allegro animato
0:06:48 IV. Fugue in A minor. Allegro moderato
0:11:08 V. Prelude in F Major. Andante cantabile
0:13:32 VI. Fugue in F Major. Allegro
0:16:33 VII. Prelude in D Minor. Allegro agitato
0:18:41 VIII. Fugue in D Minor. Andante con moto
0:22:11 IX. Prelude in B-Flat Major. Andante tranquillo
0:24:44 X. Fugue in B-Flat Major. Allegro con spirito
0:28:33 XI. Prelude in G Minor. Allegro serioso
0:30:33 XII. Fugue in G Minor. Moderato
0:35:07 XIII. Prelude in E-Flat Major. Andante moderato
0:37:21 XIV. Fugue in E-Flat Major. Allegro
0:40:13 XV. Prelude in C Minor. Vivace affettuoso
0:41:47 XVI. Fugue in C Minor. Andante serioso, ma con moto
0:46:13 XVII. Prelude in A-Flat Major. Allegretto espressivo e cantabile
0:48:09 XVIII. Fugue in A-Flat Major. Allegro risoluto

Complete tracklist can be found in the pinned comment!

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