Czerny’s Op 299, The School of Velocity
This is probably Czerny’s best known collection—even better known than the far more substantial and ambitious Op 740. Looking through the 40 studies of Op 299 you can see both its importance and its limitation as a source of repertory for a ballet accompanist. The collection is important because many of the 40 studies are short and can be quickly learned, and most of them can be used to good effect in ballet class at speeds considerably under Czerny’s metronome markings, and then playing them for class will increasingly train your fingers in independence and speed.
The collection’s great limitation is that few of the 40 studies have more than modest musical interest, and, taken together, present a notey and rhythmical sameness. All of Czerny’s patterns in Op 299 are in continuous 16ths or 32nds, and his metronome markings call for very fast counts through those 16ths and 32nds.
The studies of Op 299 are about velocity for the sake of velocity, and while there’s definitely a call for such studies in ballet class, there’s nothing to justify a particularly large stock of them in a ballet accompanist’s repertory.
Velocity can be music at its most gorgeous and introspective–the last movement of Beethoven Op 111 is, after all, a study in increasing velocity. But Czerny’s Op 299 is “about” what ballet batterie is “about,” and Op 299 is as limited in its range of meaning and expression as ballet batterie is limited in its range of meaning and expression. That’s why the studies of Op 299 are a good source of accompaniment for ballet batterie, but not much else—unless you can find ways to make something more of them.
Over the years I’ve worked on most of Op 299, but retain only nine of its studies in my active repertory, the nine studies that make up this first installment of my Czerny For Ballet Class library. I hope that my arrangements illustrate some of the ways we accompanists can make something more of these useful and attractive pieces.
Nine Studies from Czerny Op 299
(click on title for commentary and scores)