Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Musser, Jordan. “Carl Czerny’s Mechanical Reproductions.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 72 (Summer 2019): 363-429.

Carl Czerny’s Complete Theoretical and Practical Piano Forte School: From the First Rudiments of Playing to the Highest and Most Refined State of Cultivation (Op. 500, 1839) and the accompanying Letters to a Young Lady, on the Art of Playing the Pianoforte (ca. 1840) reveal a pedagogical philosophy of progressive accumulation that is encoded in the musical text of the exercises themselves. Czerny’s mechanical approach to piano pedagogy is in part designed to prepare young pianists to perform his own transcriptions, demonstrated by a case study of Czerny’s four-hand piano transcription of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In the early nineteenth century, several important piano pedagogues introduced a mechanical approach to the instrument, teaching finger movements over musical hearing. Czerny adopts these principles in his pedagogy and designs lessons that teach music theory through the mechanical sensation of the keyboard. He ties these lessons to a larger philosophy of musical embodiment wherein mechanical skill is a prerequisite to the “intellectual” and Romantic skill of musical expression. Czerny takes the same approach to his piano transcriptions such that they can be construed as a continuation of his mechanical teaching philosophy. Although critics disparage Czerny’s approach to piano and the practice of piano transcription in general as unimaginative and overly commercial, Czerny’s four hand transcription of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony provides a case study in how musical expression manifests in his mechanical approach. The primary concern with creating a piano transcription of Beethoven’s symphony is transforming the public symphony for the private chamber. Czerny accomplishes this not by literally transcribing the orchestral parts, but instead by evoking the same emotional effect with techniques specific to piano. For instance, Czerny transposes the Turkish March section of the finale up an octave to take advantage of the brilliance of the upper piano register. In other sections, Czerny utilizes “noise” effects such as holding the pedal over rapid sixteenth-note passages to recreate the fullness of an orchestra. The performative aspects of the transcription—the precise coordination, hand-crossing, and general closeness of the two pianists—add to the expressive effect, particularly in the difficult double fugue passage. Throughout the transcription, Czerny utilizes mechanical passages introduced to his students in Op. 500 and other exercises. Through abiding by Czerny’s pedagogy and transcriptions, his piano students are not mere mechanical reproducers of a musical text but instead are active participants in the mediation of expressive music.

Works: Carl Czerny: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for Piano, Four-Hands (392-419)

Sources: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 (392-419)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

Except where otherwise noted, this website is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
Creative Commons Attribution License