When learning the piano, a student is typically trained using theory, technique and sight-reading exercises, along with literature from a variety of musical periods. A solid foundation will likely include works from Carl Czerny (1791-1857), a prolific classical composer who wrote hundreds of exercises to help his students increase their technical abilities.
Who Is Carl Czerny?
Carl Czerny was born in Austria in 1791. He began piano lessons with his father and was quickly recognized as a child prodigy. He went on to take piano lessons from such great composers as Clementi, Beethoven and Salieri. By the age of 15, he himself was a much sought after music instructor, and his pupils included renowned composer Franz Liszt. Czerny never married and died in Vienna at the age of 66. He wrote over a thousand musical compositions.
Although Czerny composed a large number of symphonies, string quartets, sonatas and concertos, he is most famous for his piano exercises. He was one of the first composers to write etudes -- study pieces -- for his students. Sometimes during a lesson he would compose as many as four etudes on the spot to help a student master a particular concept. He wrote hundreds of such pieces to help his students improve finger dexterity and learn important technical aspects of playing piano. He believed such pieces would help prepare them for learning difficult Beethoven sonatas.
Importance of Czerny's Music
Because Czerny was an accomplished musician, experienced music instructor and even a proofreader of Beethoven's works before they were published, he understood how to compose music that gives students a strong musical foundation and improves technical abilities. In Russia, piano students are often required to learn all fifty etudes from his book "The Art of Finger Dexterity." The etudes serve as excellent warm-up and sight-reading exercises for students and are an important part of a well-rounded musical curriculum.
Introducing a Student to Czerny
Czerny's book "First Instruction in Piano-Playing: 100 Recreations" includes his easiest works for pianists. They are a great way to introduce easy Classical-period pieces to piano students. From there, "100 Progressive Studies for the Piano, Op. 139" contains level 3-7 etudes that will help a student to master scale passages and finger dexterity. More advanced students should use selections from his books "40 Daily Studies, Op. 337" and "Preliminary School of Finger Dexterity, Op. 646."
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