KARL CZERNY, (1791-1857), pianist and composer, was born at Vienna on the 21st February 1791. His father, who was a teacher of the piano, trained him for that instrument from an early age with such success that he performed in public at the age of nine, and commenced his own career as a teacher at fourteen.
He was brought under the notice of Beethoven, and was his pupil in the sense in which the great master had pupils. It is perhaps his greatest claim to distinction as a performer that he was selected to be the first to play Beethoven's celebrated Emperor concerto in public. He soon became the most popular teacher of his instrument in a capital which abounded in pianists of the first rank. Among his pupils he numbered Liszt, Dohler, and many others who afterwards became famous.
As a composer he was prolific to an astonishing degree, considering the other demands on his time. His works, which included every class of composition, numbered 849 at the time of his death. Comparatively few of them possess high merit, and none are destined to the immortality that belongs to the productions of genius.
He had considerable skill in devising variations for the piano of the display type, and in this and other ways helped to develop the executive power which in the modem sensational school of pianoforte playing seems to have reached the limits of the possible.
His various books of exercises, elementary and advanced, of which the best known are the Études de la Vélocité, have probably had a wider circulation than any other works of their class.
To the theory of music he contributed a translation of Reicha's Traité de Composition, and a work entitled Umriss der ganzen Musikgeschichte.
Czerny died on the 15th July 1857 at Vienna, which he seldom left, one of the few exceptions being a visit paid to England in 1836. Having no family, he left his fortune, which was considerable, to the Vienna Conservatorium and various benevolent institutions.