Riisager placed this beautiful study at the heart of Etudes. His arrangement of #20 is the longest single number in the ballet (#4, Adagio). He slows the tempo considerably (in the Danish National RSO recording Rozhdestvensky is conducting at about half Czerny’s metronome marking), and repeats it four times with more sumptuous orchestration at each iteration, and he adds a long coda. Riisager’s arrangement conveys a blend of nobility and sweetness and a throb of anguish (the modulation to the B section in f minor). You definitely want #20 in your repertory
But then there’s Czerny’s fingering. Having little technique for interlacing hands I found it off-putting, with Czerny calling for “the left thumb always remaining between the right thumb and forefinger”, and so I made the obvious arrangement that distributes the voices so as to keep the hands out of each other’s way. After a time I came back to Czerny’s fingering and applied myself to the problem and made an interesting discovery: it’s quite comfortable if you watch your hands and focus on the left thumb, resisting the urge to lift it out of position, and also resisting the urge to use scale fingering for the inner voices. That takes a lot of attention, and #20 became another one of my “meditation” studies. It’s a “meditation” on the physical look and feel of my hands in very quiet interlaced position. When practicing it I focus on listening to my sound and, when necessary, watching the fingering.
Op 335 #20,1st Version: slow 2/4 adagio chorale, 8 sets of 8-count phrases
This is my performance of #20 as Czerny wrote it, except that I’ve slowed the tempo and tried to keep it very hushed and sweet.
As is my usual practice with duple-meter adagios I prepared a triple meter arrangement of #20. My procedure was to cut each of Czerny’s 2/4 measures into two single-beat measures, then add two beats to each to make them 3/4, and then space Czerny’s soprano line through the three beats, fitting the lower voices under it.
Op 335 #20, 2nd Version: 3/4 adagio, 8 sets of 8-count phrases
This is my performance of #20 recast in 3/4. I experimented with a big sweeping LH arpeggio accompaniment in the repeats to see if I could reproduce on the piano something of Riisager’s surging grandeur and nobility as well as the hush and sweetness. In the end I couldn’t decide on the voicings and the range of the arpeggiation, so I settled for a simple, continuous 8th-note LH accompaniment outlining the harmony of Czerny’s tenor-bass voices, and projecting the piece as a simple soprano song. I supply a score.