Back in 2002 Kuerti presented a Carl Czerny Festival, in Edmonton, Canada. It was billed as the world’s first festival devoted to this composer – a claim that certainly rings true.
Kuerti’s interest in Czerny goes back to the early 1990s, when he was looking for more repertoire from classical-period Vienna. He discovered a Czerny piano sonata in a music shop, tried it out, and became convinced that the man who wrote all those finger exercises was actually a gifted composer. Further research revealed more works of merit.
Always a man to act on his ideas – however unconventional – Kuerti put together his festival in Edmonton, enlisting the support of such artists as the St. Lawrence String Quartet, violinist Erica Raum, pianist Stéphane Lemelin, tenor Benjamin Butterfield and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Now recordings from the festival will be available from Doremi, for the whole world to hear.
But will anyone listen? The “standard repertoire” is a both a powerful and intransigent force, and it doesn’t readily submit itself to revision. And while some musicians, critics and scholars have made valiant efforts to pry open the canon and insert works of their choice, successes have been rare. (Leonard Bernstein’s popularization of Mahler, and the musicologist Philip Gossett’s efforts on behalf of Rossini operas spring to mind.)
So I’ll believe that Czerny can win an audience in today’s world when I see it happen. Yet I’m glad that Kuerti has stepped forward on behalf of an obscure and maligned composer he believes is deserving of a fresh look. The musical world would be a richer place if it had more Anton Kuertis.
© Colin Eatock 2011