Carl Czerny: Composer of the Biedermeier Age

By Zaluski, Iwo; Zaluski, Pamela | Contemporary Review, November 2002 | Go to article overview

Carl Czerny: Composer of the Biedermeier Age

Zaluski, Iwo, Zaluski, Pamela, Contemporary Review

WITH the deaths of Beethoven and Schubert in 1827 and 1828 respectively, Vienna's golden age of music came to an abrupt end. What followed was a period of sustained mediocrity in which all aspects of artistic and creative life were dictated by a need for an easy life and the challenge-free pursuit of bourgeois comforts. This period later came to be known as the Biedermeier age, and was a direct result of the censorship that Prince Clemens von Metternich's Austria had strongly enforced after 1815, the year of the Congress of Vienna, at which the blueprint for a new, post-Napoleonic Europe was drawn up. The population, unable to express its political and intellectual aspirations in public, withdrew into itself, and gave vent to these aspirations in the secluded comforts of the home, where it could enjoy an essentially bourgeois existence, and criticise the government without fear of the police.

The Biedermeier home was a cosy place of light and graceful furniture bedecked with frilly furnishings and paintings depicting comfortable topics and pleasing pastoral scenes. The word gemutlichkeit came into its own, and the Viennese devoted themselves entirely to the pursuit of simple pleasures.

The world of music was also affected, but it needed the turbulent duststorms of Beethoven and Schubert to settle before Biedermeier Vienna came into its own musically, and could enjoy its new, up-to-date, essentially undemanding music. This manifested itself on two fronts. The first was the world of opera. Vienna had a number of theatres where plays and operas were mounted, the three main ones being the Grosse Redoutensaal of the Hofburg, the Karntnertor Theater, and the Theater an der Wien. Here the pleasure-loving Viennese initially flocked to the operas of Rossini, with their sparkling italianate tunes and lightweight story-lines. When Rossini retired after William Tell there was no shortage of imitators, many of them second-rate, but still able to keep up a regular supply of what the Viennese wanted - a merry night out at the opera with at least one good tune to hum on the way home.

Apart from Weber, Meyerbeer and Marschner, who fulfilled Vienna's criteria for enjoyment, perhaps the most successful Biedermeier opera composer was the German Albert Lortzing, whose Zar und Zimmermann, Der Wildschutz and Der Waffenschmied drew enormous audiences, attracted by the clever plots, the humour and the hummable arias.

The other front at which the music of the era manifested itself was in the home. It had become de rigueur to have a piano in the parlour at which home music making would take place, such as the archetypal Biedermeier home events, the Schubertiads, at which Schubert's circle met to enjoy performances of his enormously popular songs. At one stage 64 piano manufacturers made fortunes out of supplying fortepianos to Vienna's population of 200,000. All daughters were expected to learn the pianoforte - one of the few disciplines, along with sewing, embroidering and housekeeping, that society permitted them to pursue. This gave rise to the phenomenally successful piano teaching industry, at the apex of which sat Carl Czerny.

Czerny was a curious paradox of the age. He was arguably the greatest pianist who never performed, and the most successful composer to have been consigned to oblivion. He was born in Vienna in 1791 ten months before Mozart's death, the son of a Bohemian pianist and teacher. At about ten years of age he was taken on as a pupil by Beethoven, who saw in the boy a remarkable talent which he tried to nurture in his own, somewhat erratic manner. The boy, in turn, idolised his teacher, played all his works to perfection, and later became the acknowledged natural interpreter of his music.

Apart from the occasional performance, including the first airing of Beethoven's 'Emperor' Concerto, Czerny chose not to pursue a career as a virtuoso, partly because he lacked showmanship, partly because he did not wish to leave his ailing parents, and partly because he loathed performing in public. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Carl Czerny: Composer of the Biedermeier Age


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.