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Czerny Op 335 #13, Single Version

I think of this study, and its companion variation in triplets, #14, as one of Op 335’s “abstractions.” In an unchanging rhythm and barely changing texture Czerny moves diatonically by means of V7 chords through the harmonies of the C scale. In the B section the procedure is varied, the harmony changing chromatically by means of diminished 7ths. You need a virtuoso technique to execute #13’s 4- and 5-voice chords in both hands at “molto allegro.” Add to that the lack of musical and rhythmic interest, we non-virtuosi may be forgiven for skipping this study and #14. But a ballet accompanist should try to make something of both.

For me, the chief pedagogical program of #13 and #14 isn’t about speed of execution but about acquiring the physical feel of the different inversions and voicings of the chords of tonal harmony on the piano. I had occasion to mention this in Part One: the “handshape,” the “griffe,” the neural map and muscle-memory of the different fingerings of different voicings and inversions of chords. With practice, the handshpes of chords can become as ingrained, as automatic and reliable as scale fingerings. Both #13 and #14 invite “meditation,” that is, playing very slowly in private practice and focusing on the feel and shape in your hands.

Beyond “meditations,” there are many ways of simplifying Czerny’s chords and triplets to put these studies within the technical reach of a less-than-advanced pianist, and then not only can they make excellent accompaniment for short, simple frappe or picque combinations, they become an occasion for the pianist’s in-class exercise.

Op 335 #13, Single Version: sharp, light 4/4, 16 sets of 8-count phrases

This is my performance of a greatly simplified arrangement of #13, for which I supply a score. As an exercise in training for handshapes it will be seen that I’ve focused only on the RH, reducing the LH to supporting octaves, and I’ve reduced the RH chords to three voices. This is in the interest of taking a shortcut with this study but also preserving some of its technical usefulness for an accompanist. I’ve introduced some light decoration ad libitum, and varied Czerny’s locked on-the-beat rhythm.

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