Tag Archives: Riisager

That Czerny tarantella from Etudes – found but unidentified


Posters in an Italian piano forum have been playing the same game as me – trying to identify the Czerny studies used in Riisager’s ballet Etudes. In my post on the subject, I managed to trace all of them (leaving aside any short quotes that Riisager may have thrown in along the way that I failed to recognise as quotes).

The one that I couldn’t trace was the tarantella – but those Italians have found it. Or nearly. They’ve found a score of it, in an anthology of Czerny studies published by Presser in 1906, freely available at Open Library. The tarantella is on page 66-67. The only trouble is, Emil Liebling may have “revised, edited and fingered” the studies “with annotations”, but he didn’t bother to identify them. Someone (like me) has been through with a pencil, marking the opus numbers of each study, but (also like me) couldn’t identify the tarantella.

The Italians found my page on Czerny and posted a link to it, noting that I hadn’t – (unlike them) – found the tarantella. “Per solidarietà, potrei scrivergli e dargli il suo pezzo mancante” says one of the posters – out of solidarity, you could write and give him the missing piece (message 50).  Yes, out of solidarity, you could have done, that would have been very nice. But it would be even nicer if you could actually identify which book/opus number the study is.  







Études (ballet) – the sources for Riisager’s score

Etudes ballet music: beginning of the ronds de jambe en l'air music

Ronds de jambe, Op. 355 No. 1, one of the pieces used in the Études ballet music

A commenter who’d read one of my posts about my searches for the Czerny sources for Riisager’s ballet Etudes (see this post, too) asked if I’d ever made a list of those sources. I don’t know why I didn’t do it before – but with one gap that I hope I can fill in soon (the tarantella), here’s the list. Scroll to the end for notes on the numbering/naming of the Etudes ballet music, and links to free downloads of the Czerny scores.

[unnumbered] 1. Overture (Allegro molto): Op. 299, No. 9 (possibly a bit of  Op 740 No. 1 too)

Exercises à la barre

[1] 2. Moderato (Tendus, grands battements, fondus, frappés)

  • Op 261 No. 23 (C major, thirds)
  • Op 740 No 32 (C major, repeated notes)
  • Op 740 No. 12 (D minor, theme)
  • Op. 355 No. 9 (C major, dotted rhythms)

[2] 3. Molto leggiero e scherzando (Ronds de jambe) Op. 355 No. 1

[3] 4. Andante (Silhouette barre):  Op. 335 No. 37

Au milieu 

[4] 5. Andante sostenuto (Adagio):  Op. 335  No. 20

[5] 6 & 7 Moderato (Port de bras et pas de badin): 

  • Op. 821 No. 4
  • Op 299 No. 27

[5a] 8. Moderato (Mirror dance): Op. 139 No. 54

[5b] 9. Allegro animato (Ensemble):  740 No. 45 (A flat major)

[6] 10. Andantino (Pas de deux romantique*): Op. 335 No. 39

[6a] 11. Allegro animato (Sortie): Repeat of  Op. 740 No. 45

[6b] 11a. Andante (interpolation) (Conclusion): repeat of Op. 335 No. 37

[7] 12. Allegro vivo (Pirouettes)  Op. 335 No. 16

[8] 13. Allegretto scherzando (Relevés) Op. 335 No. 35

[9] 14. Vivace (Piqués and grands pirouettes) Op. 740 No. 49 (Octaves)

       15. Allegro vivo  Op. 636 No. 17 [en diagonal]

[10] 6: Allegrissimo (Prima ballerina solo) Op. 299 No. 40

[10a] 17. Vivace (Coda*)  (Repeat of No. 12, Op. 740 No. 49)

[11] 18. Allegro (Small leaps) [“Hoppity hop”] 

  • Op. 335 No. 19
  • Op. 299 17 (F, trans. in E)

19. Allegro (Pas de quatre) 

  • Op. 740 No. 40

20. Allegro Op. 740 No. 16 (but possibly with something else mixed in)

21. Allegro (Brisés) [“Boys brisés] Op. 821 No. 89 (C# minor, trans. G minor)

[12] 22. Mazurka: Op. 355 No. 36

[13] 23. Tarantella  [“Jetés] (Missing source: – A minor, in 6/8, in (double) octaves) Update on 29th May 2014 – see this post  and a link to the score – but no opus number 

[14] 24. Vivace (Broad leaps) [“1st finale”]: Op. 740 – 37  (D minor)

25. Maestoso: [“Principals”]  Op. 740 15 (E flat major, transp. to D)

26: Vif  [“2nd finale”]  Op. 365 No. 45 (A minor)

Notes on the naming and numbering of the Etudes ballet music

  • Numbers in square brackets [#] refer to the numbering in the orchestral score
  • Secondary numbers after the bracketed numbers refer to the numbering in the piano reduction, and correspond also to the numbering in the inlay booklet for the Terence Kern recording with London Festival Ballet orchestra, Cat. No. 7243 5 69089 2 5). Please note that these numbers refer to the order of the score, they’re not track numbers. Score numbers and track numbers sometimes match, but in the case of 6 & 7, for example, which are both on one track, the score numbering gets out of sync with the track numbers. 
  • The first title (i.e. things like ‘allegro’ and ‘vif’ are taken from the Terence Kern recording (see above).
  • Descriptive titles in round brackets (tendus, pirouettes etc.) are taken from the Danish Radio Orchestra recording with Rozhdestvensky , and match with the titles in the piano reduction.
  • Titles in square brackets and in inverted commas [“First finale”] are what these sections are known as colloquially in rehearsal.
  • Information in round brackets after the opus numbers are just ‘notes to self’ for me, to identify which etude I’m talking about without having to refer back to the score.
  • The main source I’m missing is the tarantella. In the score it’s in A minor, but Riisager may have transposed it, as he has a couple of the other studies.
  • Riisager quotes bits and pieces from other studies within the orchestral texture I think, so I may well have missed other sources. For example, I think  there is a bit of Op.  821 No. 22 in there somewhere, but I’ll have to listen through again to see where I think I heard it.
  • All the sources are now available online, mostly from IMSLP – see links below. I am grateful to two commenters who directed me a) to a source for the tararantella and b) to a recent upload of book two of Op. 355 at IMSLP (for the mazurka).

Sources from the IMSLP and one from the Henselt Library: 


The joy of libraries and my Czech mate Czerny


It’s not often that I get goosebumps sitting in a library, but I came pretty near to it yesterday on a trip to the University of London Library. I have been looking for months for the Czerny piano studies on which Riisager’s ballet Etudes was based. I had traced about half of them, but some – in particular those that I like most – I simply could not find. Having trawled through all the online, digitized scores, I kept coming across the same old books over and over again (the School of Velocity). Then I spent a day walking round London’s music shops – the same story.

My last hope (and I’d nearly given up) was a library, and Senate House appeared to have some Czerny I hadn’t heard of on the stacks. Possibly one of the nicest people ever to sit behind a stack service desk fetched me four enormous volumes of Czerny from somewhere in the bowels of Malet Street.

And there they were, those elusive etudes, in a set of books that from their good condition appeared not to have been opened since 1838 when they were published. This was a different Czerny to the one I knew from being a piano student, and it was suddenly easy to see how Riisager got the inspiration for Etudes. Dance permeates these studies to the extent that you’d think Czerny must have done the 19th century equivalent of clubbing every night and come home so loved-up and buzzing that he just had to write exercises the way other people put on their favourite trance album. Saint-Saëns did him an enormous disservice by caricaturing him in Carnival of the Animals with the exercises in thirds. He might have been born in Austria, and associated with Beethoven, but he was Czech – his father came from Nymburk in Bohemia, which explains a lot about the good-naturedness of his music. It also explains why there’s a Czerny Piano competition in Prague.

Think about it – these books are 166 years old, and still in perfect condition. It took less than 5 minutes to get them from the stack shelves, and probably about half an hour to flick through about 1500 pages to find what I wanted. By conrast, I have already lost innumerable music files that I created using version 1 of Logic on my Atari only 12 years ago, and even with broadband, you can’t ‘flick’ through a digitized score.

All of which reminds me of an article I read in July this year by Bruce Stirling of Wired Magazine. He wrote a piece in the Daily Telegraph called Delete Our Cultural Heritage?. His point is that the world is suffering ‘a silent phenomenon of “digital decay”‘; whereas books last centuries, the rapid obsolescence of computers and electronic storage methods means that things that we created only 10 years ago may be irretrievable unless they have been printed out, filed and catalogued – and as Stirling says, can you be bothered? It’s not until you come across an endangered species such as the Czerny pieces, that you realise that future generations may have less to remind them of the 20th century than they do of the 19th.