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Czerny Op 299 #27, 6 Versions

This lovely short study can make a surprisingly substantial addition to your ballet class repertory.

Czerny’s structure is a simple song made up of three phrases: a placid opening phrase (mm 1-8) answered by a second phrase (mm 9-15) which is a beautifully harmonized descending scale through the related keys of Bb, and a closing phrase which is essentially a greatly extended plagal cadence (mm 15-21). A regret is that for class purposes Czerny’s closing theme has to be sacrificed to make the piece square–as #27 is written, you have to devise a cadence at m 15.

At Czerny’s tempo the tremolos are like a shiver, and with practice (and on a responsive piano) they can be projected as a whisper, with the soprano-bass duet floating pensively above and below it. Czerny’s tempo projects the cut-time as “1-and” with one count to the measure. This makes it a good piece for fondus, temps lie, slow tendus. But it’s very taxing to play, and it’s very short, so you’re probably going to have to repeat it at least once.

You’ll get a lot more use out of this study if you re-imagine it as a 4/4 adagio with the quarter @75, and two counts to the measure. The immediate problem is that the tremolo 16ths can sound clunky at this tempo. My solution has been to play them as sextuplet 16ths and blur them, while projecting the soprano-bass duet with singing weight.

Op 299 #27, 1st Version: short 4/4 Adagio, 4 sets of 8

This is my performance of #27 as a short 4/4 adagio. I supply a score where you can see that I use only Czerny’s mm 1-14 and then create a 2-bar cadence based on his mm 19-20. A 4/4 adagio can be hard for dancers to count when both melody and bass are tied across a strong beat, as in Czerny’s original, so I sound quarter notes in the bass on the third beats of mm 1, 2, 5 and 6 to keep the two-count pulse clear.

As a melody-plus-accompaniment piece #27 is distinguished by having the accompaniment in the inner voices while the melody is a duet for the outer voices. You can interpolate any number of new melodies into this texture and adapt Czerny’s harmony.

Op 299 #27, 2nd Version: “Von fremden Landern und Menschen,” 8 sets of 8

This is my performance of Schumann’s “Von fremden…” (Kinderszenen) interpolated into #27, with Czerny’s harmonies adapted. I supply a score. I play the arrangement as an adagio; obviously you can speed it up to Schumann’s andantino, playing the 16th sextuplets as regular 16ths.

In my experience 4/4 adagios are relatively rare; teachers usually set adagios in 3/4. This has less to do with the steps that are typically executed in adagio than with the fact that the “one” of a slow 3/4 is easier to hear than the “one” of a slow 4/4 (there’s only one count to a measure of 3/4, but two to a measure of 4/4). You can never have too many 3/4 adagios in your repertory; you can always vary speed and dynamics to make them suitable for ronds de jamb and fondus at barre, or balance’s and pirouettes across the floor. So you should always look at a 4/4 adagio and see if it can be reshaped in 3/4.

When you reshape a compound meter piece into duple or triple time (eg #11 and #18) you keep the same amount of material, but with a new rhythm. When you reshape a 4/4 piece into 3/4 you have either to take away one beat per measure or add two beats (to make it 6/4), and this means you have to alter the material.

You can tell just by reading through a piece in 4/4 how easily it can be reshaped in 3/4 or 6/4. If there’s a lot of melodic movement and harmonic change in each measure it probably won’t work well in 3/4 (where you have to squeeze the material). If there’s static melodic material and slow harmonic movement it probably won’t work well in 6/4, since the additional musical space in each measure makes the material even slower and more static.

My 3rd and 4th versions of #27 are reshapings in 3/4 and 6/4 of Czerny’s material. These two arrangements illustrate possible solutions to the problems of such reshaping. I’ve notated both arrangements in 3/4 since that’s how they would both be counted in a typical ballet class.

Op 299 #27, 3rd Version: short 3/4 Adagio, 4 sets of 8

This is my performance of my 1st Version reshaped in 3/4. The static melodic material and slow harmonic movement of my 1st Version present no problems with cutting a beat from each measure to create a short 3/4 adagio. But because there’s now only one count to the measure (instead of two) I have only two sets of 8. I need two more sets to get a typical short adagio (4 sets of 8). I’ve opted for the simplest solution: repeat in a new key. I provide a score.

Op 299 #27, 4th Version: long 3/4 Adagio, 8 sets of 8

This is my performance of my 1st Version reshaped in 6/4 by adding two beats to each bar, and then re-barring in 3/4. I supply a score. The added melodic space means that the long-note theme has to be clearly supported in the LH so that the 3/4 pulse is heard. I decided to expand the structure by adding new melodic material—a quotation from Schubert’s “Nacht und Traume”—and then a recapitulation of B which allowed me to use Czerny’s long, beautiful closing cadence. That cadence, by the way, is enjambed with the end of the B theme, so I needed to expand Czerny’s mm 13-14.

I’ve always found #27 more useful as an adagio than anything even beginning to approach Czerny’s presto tempo (the half @92). But it’s a lovely three-line song, and played vivace (with, or without Czerny’s tremolos) it’s really charming.

Op 299 #27, 5th Version: 4/4 Song Without Words, 16 sets of 8

This is my performance of #27 with the half @75 and Czerny’s tremolo accompaniment replaced with simple chords in 8ths. I repeat the second phrase so as to be able use Czerny’s closing phrase, and I repeat Czerny’s mm 13-14 to open its enjambment with the second phrase . I’ve tweaked Czerny’s melody here and there. I supply a score.

Op 299 #27, 6th Version: 3/4 Song Without Words, 8 sets of 8

This is my performance of my 5th Version reshaped in 3/4 by dropping a beat from each measure. as with my 3rd Version, I’ve extended this very short piece by repeating it in a new key. I supply a score.

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