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A Strange New Teacher

This is a story from the autobiography of a man named Carl Czerny about the first meeting with his new teacher.

"At this time we were often visited by an old man: Krumpholz indeed he almost came every day [old? - well he was fifty].

He was a violinist and member of the orchestra at the Court Theatre, he had such a precise instinct for musical beauty that with his judgment of any piece he was able to predict the verdict of the musical world.

When the young Beethoven appeared in Vienna with the determination to "conquer" the city Krumpholz at once attached himself to him with such a vigour that he soon became a trusted friend.

I was about ten years old when he took me to see Beethoven - it was a day that I both dreaded and looked forward to - the day when I should finally meet the admired master.

At Beethoven's house we had to ascended an endless amount of stairs where a rather disorderly servant opened the door. I was about to meet Beethoven.

The room was a total mess; papers, pieces of clothes were lying all over, some trunks, bare walls and there was hardly a chair except for the rickety one at the Walter piano.

Beethoven himself was wearing a dressing gown made of some longhaired darkish gray material and trousers that matched. He reminded me of Robinson Crusoe of whom I was reading at that time - his hair was coal black - cut like emperor Titus' - and it stood unkempt out in all directions from his head. He had not shaved for several days which made his already brown face look even darker.

When we had finished Beethoven turned around to my father and said: "The boy has talent - I'll teach him myself - and accept him as my pupil. Send him to me several times a week but first you must get a copy of [Carl Philipp] Emanuel Bach's book about 'The True Art of Piano Playing', because he is going to bring that the next time he comes here".

Paraphrased from Carl Czerny's autobiography from 1842 lies In the archives of Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. Here Czerny tells the story of his relationship to Beethoven and of their first meeting in 1801.

Find out more about Carl Czerney on



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