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Courtes . New Yo rk Puhlic ihrary

ar l zerny

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£ • .




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Recollections From My Life 303

Kozeluch, etc.) and received the visits of many fellow countrymen whom

he knew professionally, e.g. Wanhall, Gelinek,1  Lipavsky,

1  etc. I was

approximately six months old when he took a job as piano teacher at

a Polish estate. We promptly moved to Poland, which is the scene ofmy first childhood memories. I am supposed to have been a very lively

child and to have played a few little pieces on the piano when I was

three. Originally, my parents were to have remained in Poland for

twelve years, but since the last Polish partition brought with it unrest

and unsettled conditions, which would have made a continued stay

very disagreeable, my father decided to forgo the advantages of his con-

tract and c. 1795 moved, back to V ienna, where he remained for the

rest of his life. His study of Bach's works and others like them had helped

my father to develop a good technique and a proper approach to thefortepiano, and this circumstance had a beneficial influence on me. My

father had no intention whatever of making a superficial virtuoso out

of me; rather, he strove to develop my sight-reading ability through

continuous study of new works and thus to develop my musicianship.

When I was barely ten I was already able to play cleanly and fluently

nearly everything by Mozart, Clementi, and the other piano composers

of the time; owing to my excellent musical memory I mostly performed

without the music. Whatever money my father could set aside from the

scant pay for his lessons was spent on music for me, and since I was

carefully isolated from other children and thus was under my parents'

constant supervision, diligence became a habit. Without my father's spe-

cial encouragement I began, when I was only seven, to put down some

ideas of my own; I should add that they were at least written correctly

enough that in later years when I received instruction in thorough-bass

I found little occasion to change anything.

At that time — during the last years of the past cen tury — the fol-lowing were the most famous pianists in Vienna:

Wolfl,* renowned for his virtuosity;

Joseph Gelinek (Abbe), 1758-1825, of Czech origin, icttled in Vienna in theearly 1790's. He was much appreciated by Mozart, who knew him in Prague.Gelinek was on good terms with the young Beethoven and it was he who issupposed to have arranged for Beethoven's studies with Johann Schenk. In lateryears the much sought after piano teacher became estranged from Beethoven.

1 Joseph Lipavsky (17 72 -18 10 ), a Bohemian pianist and composer active in

Vienna.  Joseph WSlfl, 1773-1812, a student of the two Mozarts and the two Haydns,

had such a reputation for improvisation that his skill was compared to Mozart's

and Beethoven's.

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304 T he Musical Quarterly

Gelinek, a general favorite because of the dazzling elegance of his

technique as well as for his variations;

Lipavsky, a fine sight-reader and celebrated for his performances

of Bach fugues.

I still remember how one day Gelinek told my father that he was

invited to a party that evening where he was to oppose a foreign virtuoso

in a pianistic duel. "Ill fix him," Gelinek added. Next day my father

asked Gelinek about the outcome of the battle. Gelinek looked quite

crestfallen and said : "Yesterday was a day I'll reme mb er T hat young

fellow must be in league with the devil. I've never heard anybody play

like th at I gave him a theme to improvise on, and I assure you I've

never even heard Mozart improvise so admirably. Then he played someof his own compositions, which are marvelous — really wonderful — and

he manages difficulties and effects at the keyboard that we never even

dreamed of." "I say, what's his name?" asked my father with some

astonishment. ' H e is a small, ugly, swarthy young fellow, and seems to

have a wilful disposition," answered Gelinek; "Prince Iichnowsky

brought him to Vienna from Germany to let him study composition with

Haydn, ATbrechtsberger, and Salieri, and his name is Beethoven."

That was the first time I heard that name, and I immediately be-

sought my father to get Beethoven's compositions. Soon I had every-

thing by him that was then available — the first three trios and sonatas,

some variations, his  Adelaide,  etc.; and since I already knew so many

fine works by other composers, I soon learned, within the limitations

of my age, to appreciate the beauty and originality of Beethoven's com-

positions. I must add that my understanding was furthered by another

circumstance. At that time an older man by the name of Krumpholz,4

who was the brother of the inventor of the pedal harp, came to see usalmost every day. He was a violinist and member of the court opera

orchestra; at the same time he had the greatest enthusiasm for music,

which was so extreme that it knew no bounds. Nature had given him a

high degree of true and subtle perceptivity for the beautiful in music so

that even without great technical knowledge he was able to evaluate

any composition with considerable acumen and thus to anticipate the

judgment of the connoisseurs. As soon as the young Beethoven had ap-

peared on the scene, Krumpholz attached himself to him with such

•W enzel Krumpholz, c 1750-1817, brother of the famous harpist, Johann

Baptist, was one of Beethoven'i oldest friends. Besides teaching him the violin,

he hovered over the composer like an adoring uncle.

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Recollections From M y li fe 305

worshipful tenacity that he quickly became his friend, spending almost

the whole day with him, and that Beethoven, who usually was very

secretive about his musical projects, told him about all his ideas, asked

him to listen to every new composition, and improvised daily for him.And although Beethoven often made fun of the ingenuous ecstasy that

would seize Krumpholz on such occasions and called him his fool, he

was nonetheless moved by the loyalty with wh ich he defended Beethoven's

cause against his numerous enemies regardless of the many bitter feuds

this involved. (At that time the general public completely condemned

Beethoven's works, and all the followers of the old Mozart-Haydn school

opposed him bitterly.) It was this man, then, for whom I had to play

Beethoven's works every day, and, although he knew absolutely nothing

about piano-playing, he was obviously able to teD me a good bit aboutsuch matters as tempo, manner of performance, intended effect, char-

acter, etc., since he had often heard them performed by Beethoven him-

self and had in most cases witnessed the process of composition. His

enthusiasm soon proved infectious and I soon became a Beethoven wor-

shipper like him, memorized all his works, and, considering my age,

played them with as much proficiency as enthusiasm. Krumpholz also

used to tell me what new compositions Beethoven was working on and

he would sing or play on his violin the themes he bad heard there in the

morning. In this way I always found out much earlier than anyoneelse what Beethoven was working on and thus was amazed to learn

later how long Beethoven would labor over his compositions, how it

often took him   several years before he would publish them , and how in

composing new works he would utilize motifs that had come to him

many years before. I might add that our friendship with Krumpholz

lasted m any years, until his dea th in 1819 .

My father was not wealthy enough to engage teachers for me, but

several of my father's pupils were young students and apprentices whowere too poor to pay for their lessons and instead contributed to my

education as part-time tutors. One of them taught me Italian, which I

spoke fluently when I was only ten. Another gave me lessons in French,

a third in German (my parents had spoken Bohemian with me), a

fourth guided my great penchant for literature, etc. Most of these young

men later achieved good careers as civil servants; some of them are still

living, eg. the mayor of NeustadL Thus it happened that I did not even

think about the kind of things children ordinarily do, never missed the

friendship of other boys, and never went out without my father.

At that age (10-12) I got all the usual children's illnesses (smallpox,

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306 T h e Mu sical Qu arterly

measles, etc.). Each time I was so violently ill that my health, which had

been robust up till then, remained considerably impaired for many years

thereafter, a state that was not improved by my domestic activity.

I was about ten when Krumpholz introduced me to Beethoven. With

what a mixture of fear and elation I looked forward to the day on which

I was to see the adm ired master Even today that m omen t stands out

vividly in my m emory. It was a wintry day when m y father, Krum pholz,

and I walked from Leopoldstadt (where we were still living) into the

city, to the so-called Ticfen Graben (a street), and there climbed stairs

to the dizzy heights of the fifth or sixth floor. A far from clean-looking

servant announced our visit to Beethoven and then admitted us. We

entered a very slovenly-looking room — pieces of paper, articles of cloth-ing, and a few suitcases scattered all over the place, bare walls, hardly a

chair except the rickety one for the Walter piano (the best ones made

then), and in that room a group of six to eight people, including the

two Wranitzky brothers,1  Sussmayr,' Schuppanzigh,

1  and one of Beet-

hoven's brothers. Beethoven himself was wearing a jacket and trousers

made of some dark grey material of furry texture and he immediately

reminded me of the picture of Campe's Robinson Crusoe, which I hap-

pened to be reading at that time. His jet-black hair, cut a la Titus, made

him look shaggy the way it stood off from his head. Since his beardhad not been shaved for several days, the lower part of his swarthy face

looked even darker. I also noticed immediately with the power of obser-

vation so typical of children that both his ears were stuffed with cotton

which seemed to have been dipped in a yellow liquid. But at that time

he certainly appeared to be not the least bit hard of hearing. I had to

play something right away, and since I was too bashful to start with one

of his works, I played the great C-major concerto by Mo zart (the one

that starts with chords).* Beethoven soon took notice, moved close to

my chair, and played the orchestral melody with his left hand whenever

•Anton Wranitzky, 1761-1820, w«i a good violinist, but of the two brother*it was Paul, 1756-1808, who became famous. A member of Haydn's orchestra atEszterhiz, where he was much appreciated by his conductor, he was the author ofinnumerable symphonies and concertos, though it was his  Singspitl*  that madehim a well-liked composer.

* Franz Xaver Sfissmayr, 1766 -1803 , Mozart's pup il, who completed the latter'sRequiem.

'Ignaz Schuppanzigh, 1776-1830, the first violinist to organize a string quartet

for public performances, a devoted admirer of Beethoven and first interpreter ofhis chamber music

•K. 503.

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Recollections From M y Life 307

I had purely accompanying passages. His hands were very hairy, and

his fingers very broad, especially at the tips. When he expressed satis-

faction I felt encouraged enough to play his recently published  Sonaie

Pathitiqne  and finally the  Adelaide,  which my father sang with his veryrespectable tenor voice. When I had finished, Beethoven turned to my

father and said, "The boy is talented, I myself want to teach him, and

I accept him as my pupil. Let him come several times a week. But most

important, get him Emanuel Bach's book on the true art of clavier-play-

ing, which he must have by the time he comes to see me again." Every-

body present congratulated my father on Beethoven's favorable judg-

ment, and especially Krumpholz was ecstatic. My father left immediately

to get Bach's book.

During the first lessons Beethoven made me work solely on the scales

in all keys and showed me many technical fundamentals, which were as

yet unknown to most pianists, e.g. the only proper position of the hands

and fingers and particularly the use of the thumb; only much later did I

recognize fully the usefulness of these rules. He then went through the

various keyboard studies in Bach's book and especially insisted on legato

technique, which was one of the unforgettable features of his playing;

at that time all other pianists considered that kind of legato unattainable,

since the  hammered,  detached staccato technique of Mozart's time was

still fashionable.  (Some years later Beethoven told me that he had heard

Mozart play on several occasions and that, since at that time the forte-

piano was still in its infancy, Mozart, more accustomed to the then still

prevalent  Fliigel,  used a technique entirely unsuited for the fortepiano.

I, too, subsequently made the acquaintance of several persons who had

studied with Mozart, and found that Beethoven's observation was con-

firmed by their manner of playing.)

Since my father would never let me take the long walk into the city

alone, he always took me to Beethoven himself with the result that he

lost many lessons, especially since it often happened that Beethoven

was in the midst of composing and therefore excused himself. So it came

that after a while the lessons were interrupted for a rather long period

and I was again on my own.

At tha t time (1802 ff.) I m ade the very useful acquaintance of Gov-

ernment Councillor  ess  (a friend of Mozart's and dementi's), who notonly owned a valuable library of music by the old classical composers,

but allowed me to copy from it anything I wanted. In this way I acquired

Sebastian Bach's fugues, Scarlatti's sonatas, and many another work

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308 T he Musical Qu arterly

that was hard to get at that time. In 1802 Beethoven gave his first public

concert in the theater, where he played his First Concerto in C major,

had his first two symphonies performed, which received tremendous ap-

plause, and finally improvised on the theme  Gott erhalte Franz denKaiser. I was especially interested in the symphonies an d I w as so curious

to find out how such orchestral works are written that I conceived the

notion of making my own scores of these works from the parts, so that

pretty carry in my life I got a fairly correct concept of instrumentation.

I enjoyed this type of work so much that I applied the same procedure

to several Haydn and Mozart symphonies (something far more useful

for the student than to study a ready-made score). At the same time

this activity endowed me with great skill in speedy writing of musical

notation, a skill that came in very handy later on.

For several years (c 1801-04) my father and I visited Mozart's

widow; every Saturday there were musical soirees at her house, where

Mozart's younger son (a pupil of Streichcr's)* gave very skillful per-

formances. On one occasion the party was a good bit larger than usual,

and among the many elegant persons I was especially fascinated by a

very striking young man. His unpleasant, common-looking face, which

twitched constantly, and his utterly tasteless clothing (a light-gray coat,

a long scarlet vest, and blue trousers) seemed to indicate that he wassome village schoolmaster. But the many valuable diamond rings he wore

on almost all fingers provided a most peculiar contrast As usual there

was music, an d finally this young m an (he m ight have been somewhat

older tha n twenty) was asked to play. And w hat a n accomplished pianist

he turned out to be Even though I had already had so many oppor-

tunities to hear Gelinek, Lipavsky, Wolfl, and even Beethoven, the play-

ing of this homely fellow seemed like a revelation. Never before had I

hard such novel and dazzling difficulties, such cleanness and elegance in

performance, nor such intima te and tender expression, nor even so much

good taste in improvisation; when later he performed a few of Mozart's

sonatas with violin (he was accompanied by Krommcr)" these compo-

sitions, which I had known for a long time, seemed like a completely new

•Johann Andreas Streicher, 1761-1833, a friend of Schiller, was a pianist,

composer, and teacher. After marrying Nanette Stein, daughter of the famousAugsburg piano maker, he established a branch of the Augsburg firm in Vienna

and gradually devoted all his time to the manufacture of pianos.u  Franz Krommer, 1760-1831, was one of those jack-of-all-trades that charac-

terize Viennese music of the Mozart-Beethoven era. Violinist, organist, composer,conductor, etc, he could do a little of everything, and well enough to move abcut

in excellent company.

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310 T he Musical Quarterly

too,  was at the prince's house and seemed quite satisfied with my pro-

gress.  (Beethoven had not seen me during the past two years and was

angry with my father for having interrupted the lessons.) "I said right

away," he said, "that the boy was talented, but," he added with a smile,

"his father was not strict enough w ith him ." "A ch, H err von Beethoven,"

replied my father good-naturedly, "it's just that he is our only child."

He was pleased with my sight-reading too, after he had asked me to

play the C-major Sonata Op. 53 from manuscript. From that time on

Beethoven was well disposed towards me and until his last days he treated

me like a friend. I had to proofread all his newly published works, and

when in 1805 his opera  Leonore was produced he let me make the piano

reduction of the score. It is owing to the suggestions he made while Iwas working on this project that I acquired my skill as an arranger,

which became very useful to me in later years. At that time his relative,

Ferdinand Ries, stayed with him as his pupiL11

  Ries played with great

dexterity and had acquired a good deal of his master's off-hand, humor-

istic style; yet, on the whole, his playing was unexciting, and Beethoven,

too, was not altogether satisfied with h im.

Especially noteworthy among Beethoven's friends was Schuppanzigh.

One would never have expected that this small, stout man, so full of loveof life that Beethoven always called him his Falstaff actually was a very

subtle and inspired artist One of the best violinists of the time, he was

an unexcelled quartetist, a very respectable soloist, and the best con-

duc tor of his time. Since he himself did no t compose, no egotistic m otives

ever interfered with his unshakable fidelity to Beethoven, and thus in his

performances he employed all his artistry to show the public the greatness

and beauty of Beethoven's works. And indeed there was no one better

qualified than Schuppanzigh to penetrate to the core and spirit of thesecompositions, and his friendship was very useful for Beethoven.

What might be called the golden age of music in Vienna was due

primarily to the weekly morning concerts in the Augarten Hall during

the summer and to the quartet performances in the winter. In the

former the symphonies of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven and in the

latter their quartets and quintets were performed to perfection, and I

shall never forget the impression that the premiere of any of the great

Beethoven works made on me and on everybody in general. The general

11 Ferdinand R ies, 1784-1838, pianist, author, and a prolific if quite undis-

tinguished composer, was not a relative of Beethoven, only a pupil and fellow-citizen from Bonn.

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Recollections From My lif e 311

reaction to the  Eroica Symphony,  however, which, written in 1803, re-

ceived its first performance in 1804, was at first not at all favorable. It

constitutes the transition from the Haydn-Mozart manner to the style

that later became specifically Beethoven's. It was considered too long,

elaborate, incomprehensible, and much too noisy.

I should mention that in 1803 I made the acquaintance of Count

Czemin, which circumstance proved to be of considerable influence not

on my musical, but on my general intellectual education. The young

Cou nt Eugen — a few years younger than I — became so attached to

me that he and his tutor frequently came to visit us and, moreover, I

spent almost every evening with him. Thus I had the privilege of par-ticipating in his scholarly education, especially in regard to history, as

well as in the conversations to which the younger gentlemen from other

noble families (Schwarzenberg, Lobkowitz, Stadion, etc.) were often in-

vited. This friendship, which, incidentally, owed nothing to music, since

I never played the piano at the Czernin residence, lasted more than ten

years and confirmed for all later years my predilection for historic and

generally scientific literature.11

 By the way, none of this ha d any influence

on our domestic life, since our existence depended rather precariously

on my father's income as piano teacher and piano repair man. It was

my father's conviction that there was no better way for him to prepare

me for the future than to train me as a capable piano teacher; since I

evinced the necessary talents at an early age I occasionally took over my

father's place as teacher even before I was fourteen. The pupils expressed

satisfaction. To take advantage of my playing, my parents would have

had to take me on tours, and for that they were already too old, quite

apart from the fact that the warlike conditions of the time made it im-

possible to plan such undertakings anyway. And although I was, con-sidering my age, quite proficient as a pianist, as a sight-reader, and in

the art of improvisation, my playing lacked that type of brilliant, cal-

culated charlatanry that is usually part of a traveling virtuoso's es-

sential equipment. Beethoven's compositions displeased the public, and

brilliant virtuosity on th e piano was at th at time still an imperfect novelty.

uCxerny'i l i terary and scholarly act iv ity was no les i amazing than his musical

productivity. He was a good linguist, though largely self-taught, passionately in-

terested in the literature of classical antiquity, in the natural sciences, and notablyin the history of all periods. A large history of music, entitled   Umriss dtr ganztn

Musikgtschichtt,   was published in 1851 by Schott in M ainz, a lso in Ita l ian by

Ricord i, but numero us other studies, essays, and plays ( ) , translations from th e

classic authors, etc., remain in manuscript.

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312 Th e Musical Qu arterly

SECOND PERIOD  (1806-1818;  I .E. AGE  15  TO  27)

I was fifteen when in 1806 my own teaching began in earnest, and

it so happened that I got several talented students, whose private recitalsmade an uncommonly fine impression. In this way, I immediately got a

considerable reputation as a teacher, and since all the hours of the day

were soon taken up with teaching, I was able to raise my fee. As I

naturally turned over all my earnings to my parents (my upbringing

hav ing accustomed me to receive all of life's necessities from my p ar en ts) ,

our domestic situation soon began to improve; this circumstance in turn

spurred me on together with my father gradually to secure for us a more

comfortable future. In 1806 Krumpholz, who remained our constant

friend, gave me a theme he had composed   himself.  To surprise him Icomposed of my own accord and without any outside help 20  V ariations

concertantes for piano and violin on this them e. Although I did no t play

the violin  myself constant listening to quartets had given me a fairly

good knowledge of how to write for the instrument. I tried out the

variations with Mayseder,u  who even then was already friendly towards

m e;  and repeated performances caused such unusual approbation that

there was a general clamor for their publication, which was undertaken

by the new art and music firm of  Signi:Steiner;  I received 60 fl. from

them, and for a long time my composition sold welL Although I knewvery little theory then, the variations were written so correctly that no-

body would believe that I had composed them without assistance. They

appeared in 1806 as my Op. 1. At the same time, however, I began to

study Albrechtsberger's book on thorough-bass, and old WanhaD, too,

occasionally gave me some useful hints in this matter. But since soon

thereafter I found myself overloaded with an increasing number of stu-

dents, I had no time to devote myself to composing with the necessary

concentration and seriousness.

In 1807 I befriended Andreas Streicher, formerly a piano teacher,

who at that time had turned to the manufacture of pianos and had suc-

ceeded, through independent research as well as imitation of the English,

in giving his instruments a fuller tone and sturdier construction than had

been customary until then. Since I had frequent opportunities to recom-

mend his pianos, I, in turn, received many good students through him

and his views became useful to me in various ways. In 1810 Clementi

was in Vienna, and I was fortunate enough to become a frequent visitoru  Joseph Mayieder, 1789-1863, violinist, pupil of Wranitzky, wai the iccond

violinist of the original Schuppanzigh Quartet. Even Paganini paid tribute to huexcellent playing.

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Recollections From My Life

in a household where he spent most of his time as friend of the family

and teacher of the daughter of the house. Since I was very often present

at these lessons, I became familiar with the teaching method of this cele-

brated master and foremost pianist of his time, and I primarily owe it

to this circumstance that later I was fortunate enough to train many

important students to a degree of perfection for which they became

world-famous. Meanwhile, my friendship with Beethoven continued

without interruption, and when in 1815 he asked me to teach his nephew,

whom he had adopted, I saw him almost daily at my place and often,

when he was in a good mood, heard him improvise in a manner I shall

never forget.

In 1816 my parents took in the ten-year-old Ninetta Belleville as aboarder, and I was responsible for her musical training. Hers was a rare

musical talent, and since it was her father's wish that she devote her-

self to a musical career, I now had a student whose numerous public

performances augmented my reputation, which by that time was al-

ready considerable. She remained with us for over three years until

she went on tour. At that time I gave as a rule eleven to twelve lessons

a day (from 8 ajn. to 8 p.m.) and taught at the houses of the highest

nobility and the leading families of Vienna. This lucrative, but extremely

strenuous activity, which taxed my health, lasted more than twenty

years, until I gave up teaching entirely in 1836.

THIRD PERIOD  (1818  TO THE PRES EN T  [1842])

Notwithstanding this strenuous daily activity I nonetheless composed

every free moment I had, especially in the evening, and experimented

with most types of compositions. But on the one hand I had no time to

complete anything and on the other hand I h ad the bad habit — so

common with young people — of starting something new every day onlyto lose patience with the job of working out and shaping my material.

Only once, when a lady student of mine asked me to write a four-hand

composition for a name-day celebration, I completed a rondo for piano

duet. Purely by accident its performance never came to pass and I gave

no further thought to the piece. A few months later I happened to

meet Mr. Diabelli on the street, who told me that he had given up his

previous occupation (guitar instruction) and that, in conjunction with

Mr. Cappi, he had founded a music store and publishing house. He

added that, since I was already so well known as a teacher, he would

be happy to try publishing a work by me, if I would compose some-

thing for him. That reminded me of that four-hand rondo, and, with-

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314 Th e Musical Quarterly

out ever having tried it out, I had it published. It appeared as Opus 2

(my Opus 1 had been those old variations that had appeared in

1805 but were completely forgotten and out of print), and I received

a fee of 50 fl. The rondo sold very well, and quite unexpectedly

and surprisingly became a great favorite; I myself was astonished when

some time later I performed it at a musicale with my pupil Szalay and

noticed that I had succeeded in discovering a number of entirely new

devices for the piano-duet medium. From that moment on I saw that

composition provided a new wide field for me, and I lost no time in

taking advantage of the opportunity. Without missing even one of my

numerous lessons I used all my evenings for composing, and my Opp.

3,  4, and 5 appeared in that very same year. The publishers had suchconfidence in me that they accepted all manuscripts without hearing

them and paid for them generously. More than ten works (the grand

piano sonata, Op. 7, and the four-hand sonata, Op. 10, among them)

appeared the following year (1819), and soon my name began to be-

come known abroad as well. Since I composed extremely rapidly and

put out serious works and trifles with equal ease, I was always able to

fulfill the numerous commissions which streamed from everywhere (in-

cluding foreign coun tries), and many a work by me had the good fortune

to become the public's and hence the publishers' favorite. My earlierstudies in scoring, arranging, etc. as well as the habit of writing down

every theme that occurred to me, and thus accumulating a very large

number of original motifs — all this now turned out to be extremely use-

ful;  and it explains easily how my opus numbers soon rose to 100, 200,

300,  etc., without counting my equally numerous arrangements, which

always remained unnumbered.1*

One morning in 1819 (shortly after the Belleville girl had left us) a

man brought a small boy about eight years of age to me and asked meto let that little fellow play for me. He was a pale, delicate-looking child

and while playing swayed on the chair as if drunk so that I often thought

he would fall to the floor. Moreover, his playing was completely ir-

14 Thi i prodigious output w ai bound to evoke sarcastic comments from other

musicians. John Field was convinced that Czerny manufactured models of passages,

turns, and cadenzas which were carefully filed in the pigeonholes of a cupboard for

further use whenever the need arose for a suitable chunk of music. But such

derisive judgments, which strangely resemble the bitter diatribes directed against

Eugene Scribe, 01011/1 contemporary, and famed for his libretto and play factory,fail to take account of the sincerity and genuine devotion of this composer. Czerny

was a gifted musician and had obvious talent as a composer, but he was the victim

of bourgeois frugality, sobriety, orderliness, and industry carried to the most


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regular, careless, and confused, and he had so little knowledge of correct

fingering that he threw his fingers over the keyboard in an altogether

arbitrary fashion. Nevertheless, I was amazed by the talent with which

Nature had equipped him. I gave him a few things to sight-read, whichhe did, purely by instinct, but for that very reason in a manner that

revealed that Nature herself had here created a pianist. He made the

same impression when I acceded to his father's wish and gave him a

theme on which to improvise. Without the least bit of acquired knowl-

edge of harmony he yet managed to convey a feeling of inspiration in

his performance. The father told me that his name was Liszt, that he

was a minor official at the court of Prince Esterhazy, and that up to

that time he himself had taught his son; he was now asking me whether

I would take charge of his little boy beginning the following year whenhe would come to Vienna. Of course I gladly assented and, by showing

him scale exercises, etc., also instructed him how to continue the little

boy's training in the interim. About a year later Liszt and his son came

to Vienna and moved to the same street where we lived; since I had

little time during the day, I devoted almost every evening to the young

boy. Never before had I had so eager, talented, or industrious a student.

Since I knew from numerous experiences that geniuses whose mental

gifts are ahead of their physical strength tend to slight solid technique,

it seemed necessary above all to use the first months to regulate andstrengthen his mechanical dexterity in such a way that he could not pos-

sibly slide into any bad habits in later years. Within a short time he

played the scales in all keys with a masterful fluency made possible by

a natural digital equipment especially well suited for piano-playing.

Through intensive study of Clementi's sonatas (which will always re-

main the best school for the pianist,  if one knows how to study them in

his spirit)  I instilled in h im for the first time a firm feeling for rhythm

and taught him beautiful touch and tone, correct fingering, and proper

musical phrasing, even though these compositions at first struck the

lively and always extremely alert boy as rather d ry.

Because of this method it was unnecessary for me to pay much at-

tention to technical rules when a few months later we took up the works

of Hummel, Ries, Moscheles, and then Beethoven and Sebastian Bach;

instead I was able to acquaint him immediately with the spirit and

character of the various composers. Since I made him learn each piece

very rapidly, he finally became such an expert sight-reader that he wascapable of  publicly  sight-reading even compositions of considerable diffi-

culty and so perfectly as though he had been studying them for a long

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316 Th e Musical Qu arterly

time.  Likewise I endeavored to equip him with skill in improvising by

frequently giving him themes to improvise on. The young Liszt's un-

varying liveliness and good humor, together with the extraordinary

development of his talent, made us love him as if he were a memberof our family, and I not only taught him completely free of charge,

but also gave him all the necessary music, which included pretty nearly

everything good and useful that had been written up to that time. After

only one year I could let him perform publicly, and he aroused a degree

of enthusiasm in Vienna that few artists have equaled. In the following

year his father, mindful of the advantages, arranged to have him give

public concerts, in which the boy played Hummel's new Concertos in

A minor and B minor, Moscheles's Variations, Hummel's Septet, Ries's

concertos, and a number of my compositions; in addition he wouldalways improvise on motifs the public gave him, and people had indeed

every right to see a new Mozart in him. Unfortunately his father

wished for great pecuniary gain from the son's talent, and just when the

latter had reached a most fruitful stage in his studies and had barely

begun to receive from me some rudimentary instruction in composition,

he went on tour, a t first to Hu ngary and ultimately to Paris and London ,

etc.  Everywhere he caused a sensation, as is confirmed by all the papers

of that time. It is true that he made a great deal of money in Paris,

where he and his parents settled, but he lost many years during which

his life and his art became misdirected. When sixteen years later (1837)

I went to Paris I found his playing rather wild and confused in every

respect, the enormous bravura notwithstanding. The best advice I felt

I could give him was to travel all over Europe, and when the following

year he came to Vienna his genius received a new impetus. Showered

with the boundless applause of our sensitive public, he developed that

brilliant and yet more limpid style of playing for which he has now

become so famous throughout the world. However, I am convinced that,had he continued his youthful studies in Vienna for a few more years,

he would now likewise fulfill in the field of composition all the high ex-

pectations tha t w ere then rightly cherished by everyone.

In 1829 I took on Thcodor Dohler from Naples as a pupiL He was

then about fourteen years old, but prior to that time had made only

moderate progress in Naples. Not possessing an equally dazzling talent,

he substituted for it an iron self-discipline and strict, obedient attentive-

ness,  with the result that after a few years his appearance in Viennaalready evoked from the public the kind of ovation usually bestowed

on budding artists of high promise. I taught him for about six years,

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Recollections From My Life 317

and his first 15 or 20 published compositions were also written under

my supervision.

In 1827 I lost my mother and five years later (1832) my father, andwas thus left all alone, since I have no relatives whatever.

  Translated by Ernest Sa nders)