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Czerny Op 335 #23, 2 Versions

For me the first 20 measures of #23 are among the loveliest inspirations of Op 335. The grave sweetness of the theme of the first four measures, the rising bass line, the thickening counterpoint and move to the minor at m 13, could be from a Mendelssohn quartet movement. Czerny’s tempo is the quarter @92, but I think his wonderful quartet-style writing gains if his tempo is slowed to the quarter @65-70--the typical tempo of a ballet class 4/4 adagio.

As with the other polyphonic studies of Op 335 Czerny’s counterpoint soon disappears, and the pianist’s challenge is to keep the four voices sounding independant once their separate rhythmic motion has been taken from them and they are sounding as chords.

In arranging #23 my aim was to keep the counterpoint going from beginning to end, and I used Czerny’s first 20 measures as the material for a 4-voice fughetta. The challenge of creating a piece of such dense counterpoint for a ballet class combination goes far beyond avoiding parallel 5ths, leaps to a dissonance, etc. The main challenge is to create music with clarity of counts, clarity and predictability of phrase lengths, and reliability of markers (cadences) that delineate large structural units (8, 16, and 32 counts)--all that has to be evident to the dancers’ ears on first hearing.

Op 335 #23, 1st Version: 4-voice cantabile in fugal style, 8 sets of 8-count phrases

This is my performance of my arrangement of the first 20 measures of #23, for which I supply a score. I’ve expanded Czerny’s 20 measures to 32, using mm 1-4 as a main theme, mm 5-12 as a second theme, and mm 13-20 as a development section in the relative minor. My main objective was to maintain easily audible four-voice counterpoint throughout the piece while keeping counts and structure also easily audible.

Even with all the effort to make counts and cadences clear you have to be careful what kind of combination you play a fugal piece for. Such pieces want to be listened to, and musical dancers are often the very ones who can’t not listen. It’s best to save such pieces for fairly slow and static combinations—warm-up-stretch, plies…

#23, 2nd Version: 4-voice cantabile in fugal style, 16 sets of 8-count phrases

This is a performance of my 1st Version arrangement of #23 doubled in length to make it suitable for a long plies combination (16 sets of 8’s). The chief problem was that because Czerny’s piece is built on repeated motivic material rather than sustained and varied melodies the result of expanding my 1st Version would be four minutes of repetitive and, eventually, monotonous 4-part counterpoint. My principle strategy was to curtail the full interplay of Czerny’s four voices, often having only two voices sounding. Another strategy was to introduce a purely harmonic accompaniment figure (rocking intervals) and pass it from voice to voice. And then, using DAW software, I separated the voices’ registers more widely than would be possible playing with only two hands. The accompaniment figure and the bass (which always sounds on the down beat) keep the counts clear, the cadences keep the structural units clear, and the deployment of the voices across the keyboard allow for color and variety that counters possible monotony.

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