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Czerny Op 740 #48, 2 Versions

This is another of the studies that I think of as “gestural” as opposed to “textural.” Other clear examples are #13 and #26, and in my commentary to those studies I’ve explained how “declamatory” studies like #15 and #46 are “gestural,” but only in one hand. A fully “gestural” character obtains when the “gesture” is exposed relatively unsupported, and consists of a variety of different note-values like the LH opening gesture of #48: double grace note anacrusis, long trill, rapid scalar descent.

Czerny calls #48 a “trill exercise,” but to my sorrow I’ve never been able to get a satisfactory LH trill of much length. When I try to play Czerny’s half-note trills the result is weak, but it becomes positively embarrassing when the “gesture” is transferred to the RH at m 17 and I’m suddenly able to produce a long, glorious shiver (“Oh, he just can’t trill with his left hand.”) I think Czerny’s gesture works acceptably when you open it with a forceful turn on Ab. To preserve my cover I play the RH gesture with a turn also, and not a trill.

Czerny’s dynamic markings first call for a powerful delivery of the “gesture” in the LH under thick RH chords, and then in the B section a light delivery in the RH. The contrast adds interest to the piece but I think it will be more useful to play lightly throughout. As written, this isn’t Grands Battements music.

In the A section the third-beat rests in the RH (mm 1-2, 5-6, etc) add drama to the LH double-forte trilling, but if you’re playing the LH as a turn + half note as I do those third-beat rests will sound like abrupt dropping-off of support. I fill in the third beat.

In the second half of Czerny’s A section I move some of the RH to a lower register to broaden the range.

Op 740 #48, 1st Version: florid “gesture” music, 16 sets of 8

This is my performance of #48 squared off into ternary form as follows: mm 1-24 with a cadence on V7 followed by mm 32-7 and mm 46-7. My approach as a whole is to make this a light and even delicate dialog between LH and RH. In the A section I reduce the RH chords to single pitches (like a fanfare in counterpoint to the LH’s florid trills and scales), and I introduced acciaccaturas and dottings in the manner of baroque “French Overture.”

The compositional technique of #48--a highly elaborated “working” hand and a placid, spare “supporting” hand--invites what I think of as “costume” arrangements: a familiar tune performed nach-Czerny.

Op 740 #48, 2nd Version: “La Marche des Rois Mages,” 8 sets of 8

This is my arrangement of the traditional French carol played with Czerny’s gesture material as an accompaniment. I supply a score.

As a final thought on Czerny’s “gestural” studies I’ll say that for me as a musician they are the most interesting music in the collection--not the most beautiful, not the most impressive, but the most absorbing to listen to and follow. I think that they make a similar impression on dancers. These studies inspire choreography, not just repetitive exercises.

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