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Czerny Op 740 #31: 5 Versions

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

This is one of those studies whose bottom-line recommendation is the workout for both hands and a regular phrase structure that makes for easy short-cutting. For me the note pattern itself lies gratefully in the hands and invites slow, relaxed practice for a good warmup. Czerny’s tempo--the dotted half @58--is another matter...

When I first began playing this study for class (in a simple one-pager ternary arrangement) I used it for adagio while I gradually got more speed. It’s not very effective at the typical 3/4 adagio tempo (the quarter @90-100); the arpeggiation is sluggish. In time I was able to get my speed comfortably to the quarter @120-140, a good tempo for several different things in a ballet class.

Op 740 #31, 1st Version: short 3/4 arpeggio study, 4 sets of 8

This is my performance of the first 24 measures of #31, trimmed and fashioned into ternary form with the quarter @130. I interpolate hand crossings to decorate the second beats of each measure of my A section. I provide a score.

The simplest recipe for recasting #31 in 4/4 is changing Czerny’s three 16th-note groups into four triplet 16ths and adjusting the quarter note material to the new meter. The question then is what kind of 4/4 do you want. I worked up two possibilities: a 4/4 Adagio, with the quarter @70, and a Grands Battements in 2.

Op 740 #31, 2nd Version: short 4/4 Adagio, 4 sets of 8

This is my performance of my one-pager of #31 recast as an adagio. With Czerny’s 16ths played as triplets the arpeggiation isn’t too sluggish, even at a tempo drastically under Czerny’s. The challenge for me was to devise accompaniment under and over the arpeggios, and working on this problem I realized that in fact it should be the arpeggios that become the accompaniment. Experimenting with different melodic material I came up with a complex but not terribly difficult texture of triplets-against-duplets with embedded melody lines--an adagio of the “forceful” sort.

I supply a score where it will be seen that I re-beamed Czerny’s 16ths as eighths and quarters as halfs, and set the piece in 2/2 (cut time). This was to avoid a dense thicket of 16ths filling the page. Czerny’s mm 19 and 23 strongly resist my “triplet-izing” so I rewrote them, and I moved mm 15-16 down an octave, allowing the music to follow its natural trajectory.

Op 740 #31, 3rd Version: Grands Battements, 8 sets of 8

This is my performance of my 1st version reshaped into 4/4, for which I provide a score. I’ve rewritten Czerny’s 16ths figure in mm 19 and 23 to get them in synch with the 4/4 pulse. I’m making the 16th note material an accompaniment to the quarter note material and dotting that material.

Time Out For A Brief Essay On How I Found Out About “Tempo Di Paso Doble”

When I was starting out as a ballet pianist and learning class the single most problematic but exciting and interesting combinations were the pirouettes across the floor. It seemed to me there were two basic types, “lyrical” and “character,” both in relatively slow waltz time. The “lyrical” pirouettes combination was easily taken care of by a big, swooshy 3/4 like Pucinni’s “Musetta’s Waltz,” but the “character” type (usually with a well accented character step like mazurka or pas de basque) stumped me for a while. I got by with playing a regular waltz more slowly and heavily accented than the music wanted to be. My breakthrough came when I saw a production of The Man of La Mancha and realized that the title song was in exactly the tempo and spirit of the second type of pirouettes. Before I checked a vocal score I realized that each quarter of Mitch Leigh’s slow, measured 3/4 is subdivided into two 8ths, making all three beats in the measure equal, and that this not only reflects the rhythm and accent of the “character” type of pirouette combinations but also, more importantly, reflects the force and precision of the “spotting” the dancer does for three turns. It’s the “spotting” that defines the musicality of a pirouette combination for me. When I later checked a vocal score of The Man of La Mancha I saw that it’s marked “Tempo Di Paso Doble.”

I also noticed that Leigh’s song “Aldonza” is barred “6/8 (3/4),” and that it’s easy to play the tune over a simple 3/4 paso doble LH, just like the title song. Then I discovered that Leigh’s 6/8 (3/4) time signature is the same as Bernstien’s for “America” in West Side Story. And then I realized that tempo di paso doble is the rhythm of the Gypsy Song in Carmen...and “Di quella pira“ in Il Trovatore...and “Spanish” in Swan Lake Act III, and on and on... It turns out you can easily assemble a huge repertory of tempo di paso doble’s.

This was more than 40 years ago, and I make a point of it in this commentary because when I first started to use the paso doble 3/4 in class teachers and students told me how perfect it is for the typical character-style pirouette combination, yet to this day (40 years later) that rhythm is still new to many teachers and students. And I think many accompanists don’t know about it, or know how well it can work in class.

The fact is, you can slow down any waltz and play it in tempo di paso doble, projecting the “doble” (the subdivision of each beat) with a strong LH accompaniment in 8ths. But this is the drawback to this rhythm: it requires a strong, sustained, percussive and very active LH. It takes practice to develop the needed LH stamina, speed and accuracy.

It was only when I began working on this library and returned to my early arrangements of #31 that I realized what a splendid paso doble it could make. The challenge is getting some kind of melodic content into the LH , and, of course, the speed of the arpeggiation in both hands.

Op 740 #31, 4th Version: “Tempo Di Paso Doble,” 8 sets of 8

This is my performance of #31 recast as a paso doble. Czerny’s arpeggiation is retained, but the LH is filled out with the 6-beat rhythm, and new melodic material is introduced. I supply a score where it will be noticed that I alter Czerny’s RH note pattern at the return of the A section (m 38). I did this because I wanted the RH’s movement from the high register to the middle to be less abrupt. You may not think the alteration necessary.

And finally...

Op 740 #31, 5th Version: Pirouettes to Mitch Leigh’s “I, Don Quixote,” 20 sets of 8

This is a rendition of “I, Don Quixote” (for which I secured license) set over the arpeggiation of #31 and interspersed with material from my 3rd Version. It was created with DAW software which allowed me to overdub multiple-players.

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