Piano Quartet No.1 in c minor, Op.148
Carl Czerny (1791-1857) is remembered as one of the most famous piano teachers of all time. He was a child prodigy. When Beethoven heard Czerny play, he invited the boy to study with him, which Czerny did for three years. He also studied with Muzio Clementi and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Besides being Liszt's only real teacher, Czerny taught a host of other famous pianists. Today, the only music of Czerny's which is ever played are his pedagogical works for pianists such as his etudes and his famous Art of Finger Dexterity and his School of Velocity. But Czerny composed over 1000 works in virtually every genre although most were for the piano. The bulk of his oeuvre---potpourris based on various opera arias and such which made his publishers rich, was composed at the their request. These salon pieces were incredibly popular throughout the 19th century but for this very reason Czerny was attacked by most critics as nothing more than a hack. Very few of his other works received more than a premiere and it is highly doubtful that his critics every heard his symphonies, lieder or chamber music. Had they done so, their opinion about Czerny and his music would certainly have been very different because Czerny was not only a master craftsman but also a composer with a gift for melody. His Piano Quartet No.1 in c minor is an excellent example of this.
Piano Quartet No.1 in c minor was published in 1827 and composed not long before. It not only shows the influence of Beethoven, but also that Czerny drank from the same cup of Viennese melody as had Schubert. The opening Allegro molto agitato begins quietly in a foreboding mood. Suddenly a storm of passion breaks loose as the music almost bursts the bounds of chamber music. A second theme is more lyrical though it has almost as much forward motion as the opening subject. Next comes a hard-driving scherzo, rhythmically very similar to that of Schubert's last string quartet. A finely contrasting trio section offers a lovely melody first sung by the cello and then the rest of the strings. A deeply felt Beethovian Andante sostenuto comes next. The strings present the long-lined melody over the soft piano filigree accompaniment. The captivating main theme of the finale, Allegro vivace, is first heard in the piano over the strings quick 16ths which almost sound like tremolo. It is a rhythmic horse ride. The romantic second subject, is highly lyrical and followed almost immediately by another lovely melody.
We looked for a set of parts to this very fine work for many years and eventually we were able to obtain a copy of a set of the original parts which were brought out by the publisher C.F. Peters in 1827. (there is no other edition) As you might imagine, the paper and the ink on these 185 year old parts had water marks, smudges, and the detritus of age. We have spent many hours digitally cleaning the music and in addition have added rehearsal letters, creating what we believe is a very serviceable performance edition. But, it is not pristine like a newly published work nor the equal in quality of a modern edition. For one thing, piano parts published during this era do not have the string parts above them, only the piano part. Why not bring out a new edition you might ask? It could be done but the cost of doing it would make the work almost prohibitively expensive for most musicians--- three, four or five times more than our price. (we ourselves are musicians) Our goal is to revive worthwhile music such as this. Hence an improved reprint seems the best solution.