WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Czerny: Bel Canto Concertante / Tuck, Bonynge, ECO

Czerny / Tuck / English Chamber Orch / Bonynge
Release Date: 03/10/2015 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573254   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Carl Czerny
Performer:  Rosemary Tuck
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $12.99
CD:  $9.99
In Stock



Notes and Editorial Reviews

Most of us as children were probably partial to elaborate cream cakes, well before obesity became a household word. Even at the time there was often the wise parental admonition not to eat too many at once, or face the inevitable consequences quite soon afterwards.

In a way this is what we’re offered here on this equally naughty-but-nice CD from Naxos. For most listeners, the name Czerny is synonymous with hundreds of perhaps tedious studies for young and emerging pianists at every level of technique from the ‘School of Velocity’, to the later ‘Art of Finger Dexterity’. The fact that these two volumes – Opp. 299 and 740 respectively – have such high opus numbers, attests to the Austrian composer’s prolific output. That said,
Read more Carl Czerny wrote so much more than just studies, and it is great to have more and more of it become available on CD.

Not surprisingly, Czerny was an immensely organised composer who, according to the most informative sleeve-note by Allan Badley, grouped his works into four distinct categories: 1) studies and exercises, 2) easy pieces for students, 3) brilliant pieces for concerts, and 4) serious works. The distinction between the last two categories is important, because it confirms the essential purpose of the kind of work recorded here.

The Irish composer, John Field, stayed with Czerny in Vienna in 1835, and described Czerny’s study as a ‘composition factory’, simply because he kept samples of every conceivable type of passage-work filed there in a large cupboard, which was used both for teaching purposes and in his own works. As Badley explains, ‘(Czerny’s) students, or assistants, would be given instructions to transpose selected passages into the appropriate key and incorporate them into the works they were busily copying for their teacher’. This formulaic approach to composition was nothing new, and Czerny’s rigorous application of it sat well with the new industrial age. It is not light years away from modern practices using a music-notation programme to effect some basic transpositions, or copy and paste processes. A composer like Schumann, for whom purity in art was paramount, wrote exceedingly scathingly about Czerny, his music, and methods.

The four items on the CD – which bears the title ‘Bel Canto Concertante - Virtuoso Variations for Piano and Orchestra’ – are typical of the time. They draw their inspiration from themes from the most popular operas of the day and are simply designed as ‘brilliant pieces for concerts’, as per 3) above. Badley informs us that the ‘Variations on Swedish National Airs’ by Czerny’s contemporary, Ferdinand Ries, appears to be the first work of its kind in the genre, subsequently cultivated by Hummel and a host of other pianist-composers. Czerny’s works were composed between 1828 – Introduction, Variations and Polacca, Op 160 – and 1833 or so, the Introduction, Variations et Presto finale, Op 281. In each case the work was written within a few years of the opera upon which it is based. Each one is essentially similar in overall design, and follows Ries’s pattern: a slow, often pompous yet lyrical introduction, and the presentation of the theme and its variations, the last of which becomes extended to form a finale. Like those of Ries and Hummel, Czerny’s introductions are freely composed, whereas the quotation of thematic material from the respective opera forms the basis of the main body of the piece. As the works essentially need to be effective in performance, the choice of theme is more down to its popularity and recognisability, than its intrinsic music interest. Czerny often adds a little codetta (add-on ending) to the theme, which is played by the orchestra. The variations start out by following the theme’s contours pretty closely, becoming more freely ordered as the work progresses. Equally, they tend to become more virtuosic with each successive variation, to which Czerny adds a little extra zing by increasing the tempo proportionately. A slow, expressive variation is included – never overlong, but strategically placed for the best overall effect. In a work like Brahms’sVariations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, the theme is organically developed, taken apart and virtually reformed. By contrast, Czerny’s modus operandi is simple variation. He explores a succession of figurations that are only really loosely connected with the themes, somewhat confirming Field’s notion of a ‘composition factory’ approach. Czerny does, however, become a little more adventurous in the longer variations.

This is not to detract in any way from the sheer enjoyment of these works which set out, and certainly very much achieve what it says on the tin. They have an immediate appeal and that was Czerny’s sole intention. He varies the way in which he describes each work on the present CD, but effectively it’s only in the third example that he specifically mentions the inclusion of a closing Polacca (Polonaise). This does achieve an effective change from duple to triple meter, seemingly giving it a new lease of life towards the conclusion.

The recording quality is good, and the English Chamber Orchestra provides a secure, but not intrusive accompaniment. Australian pianist, Rosemary Tuck, despatches each work with real panache and élan, making light of the often complex pianistic gyrations and fireworks. She is also well able to treat the more serious parts with appropriate, if not necessarily tongue-in-cheek, solemnity. Richard Bonynge is the ideal choice of conductor here, as he directs proceedings with the same stylistic empathy he had when wielding the baton over the singing of his late wife, Dame Joan Sutherland, in many similar coloratura roles, except here the soloist is now the pianist.

At Naxos’s bargain price, it would be virtually impossible not to welcome this charming CD. After all, each work is both attractive and uncomplicated to listen to and gives a good insight into the art of simple variation. The music also elucidates the origins of some of the more-extended pianistic figurations found in later similar display-works by Chopin, Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns.

If you find that listening to all four works in succession, is just a bit too much for one sitting, then return to your parents’ advice above, and perhaps try them one or two at a time – that way there’s no chance of overindulging.

– Philip R Buttall, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Introduction, Variations and Presto Finale on a theme from Bellini's "Norma," for piano & orchestra, by Carl Czerny
Performer:  Rosemary Tuck (Piano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1833 
Venue:  St Silas Church, Kentish Town, London NW 
Length: 17 Minutes 17 Secs. 
2.
Grandes Variations di Bravura on 2 motifs from D.F.E. Auber's "Fra Diavolo," for piano & orchestra, by Carl Czerny
Performer:  Rosemary Tuck (Piano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830 
Venue:  St Silas Church, Kentish Town, London NW 
Length: 18 Minutes 16 Secs. 
3.
Introduction, Variations et Polonaise on "Tu Vedrai la Sventurata" from Bellini's "Il Pirata," for p by Carl Czerny
Performer:  Rosemary Tuck (Piano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828 
Venue:  St Silas Church, Kentish Town, London NW 
Length: 19 Minutes 4 Secs. 
4.
Introduction et Variations Brillantes on the Marche from Pacini's "Gli Arabi nelle Gallie," for pian by Carl Czerny
Performer:  Rosemary Tuck (Piano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831 
Venue:  St Silas Church, Kentish Town, London NW 
Length: 14 Minutes 28 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  5 Customer Reviews )
 Forgotten unfairly. January 30, 2016 By Anthony G. (SANTA FE, NM) See All My Reviews "This music captures the heart, the mind, and the soul of the listenener transporting one to ethereal realms beyond mundane perplexities. Czerny needs to be better known and played. We are hamstrung by the same concert programs and the same "set in stone" identities of the "greatest composers of all time--the 5 of them." Let us revolt from this tyrany of the virtuosi-who, in turn,--are bullied by stale, unimaginative music companies. Cheated audiences are denied access to so much great unknown music, such as those compositions composed by Czerny. They are deprived of the chance to make up their own minds by being deprived of new repertoire. Yes, just what we need more cds of Chopin and Beethoven. Their greatness is already established. Let's be more inclusive. Let us open up the canon." Report Abuse
 Solid entertainment August 24, 2015 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Not all classical music scales the heights of artistic expression. Sometimes it's just meant to be entertaining -- like these virtuoso variations by Carl Czerny. These four works, written between 1828-1832, dazzle the ear with clever reworkings of some of the hottest tunes of the day. The source material is musically appealing in its own right -- themes from Bellini's operas Norma and Il Pirata; motives from Auber's Fra Diavolo. The music from Pacini's opera Glie Arabi nelle Gallie may not be as familiar to modern audiences as Bellini's and Auber's but it's equally tuneful. Czerny's goal isn't to plumb the depths of this material. Rather, the themes provide something familiar that the listener can hold onto as Czerny builds his variations around them: variations designed to show of the skill of the pianist to greatest effect. Rosemary Tuck makes it all sound easy, running up and down the keyboard in a cascade of notes. At the same time, she makes sure the phrasing retains the lyrical nature of the themes. These virtuoso variations have no pretensions -- they were written just to entertain, and that's exactly what they do. And sometimes, that's all I want out from a recording." Report Abuse
 Czerny equals enjoyable music July 8, 2015 By M. Mckno Bottrall (PORT PIRIE, South Australia) See All My Reviews "For years I hated Czerny because he wrote all the studies and exercises that my music teacher forced me to play. The I gradually realised that Czerny had written MUSIC! And now I try to get hold of every recording of his music that is available. These really are tuneful pieces which I think the average music lover will really enjoy hearing." Report Abuse
Review This Title