Czerny was born in Vienna and was first taught the piano by his father before taking lessons from Ludwig van Beethoven. He was a child prodigy, making his first appearance in public in 1800 playing a Mozart piano concerto. Later, he gave the Vienna premiere of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor) in 1812.
He quickly took to teaching, and was as prodigious at that - by the age of fifteen, he was already a sought after instructor. He eventually instructed Franz Liszt, among many others. Liszt later dedicated his Transcendental Studies to Czerny.
Czerny also composed a very large number of pieces, including a number of Masseses and Requiems, and a large number of symphonies, concertos, sonatas and string quartets. None of these pieces are often played today, however, and he is known as a composer almost exclusively because of the large number of didactic piano pieces he wrote, many of which are still used today.