Technique and expression in Carl Czerny's teaching: a critical study of Czerny's Piano-Forte School, Opus 500, demonstrating the direct relation between mechanical teaching and expression in performance
Vanoni, Miriam Conti
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Carl Czerny (1791–1857) lived at the turn of the nineteenth century, when the piano underwent significant development as an instrument, and subsequently generated a huge repertoire. While Czerny is mostly remembered for his piano exercises and etudes, his writings about music as well as his works in serious style reveal a man with a sophisticated awareness of the importance of piano technique, entwined with profound musical ideas and an understanding of music that make him a forerunner of the romantic style. This study focuses on Czerny’s Opus 500 Complete Theoretical and Practical Piano Forte School (1839), and its Supplement (1845). Through analysis of the tutorial’s content it attempts to prove the deep connection between piano technique and expressive playing in Czerny’s teaching. The first five chapters of this work compare elements of expressive playing, such as articulation, dynamics and tempo, as presented in different tutorials written before Czerny’s opus 500, clearly relevant to Czerny. The remaining chapters of this study discuss the pedagogical path that Czerny suggests to master those same aspects, especially through scales and scale-based exercises, and through constant attention to improving the listening skills of the student. The purpose of this work is to reassess Czerny as a key figure of modern piano technique, as a teacher and pedagogue able to introduce pianists to mechanical training while honing the essential skills to perform any piece of music in any style expressively.