Just as Haydn was called the “father of the modern orchestra”, the composer you will be listening to this week is called the “father of modern pianoforte playing.” Muzio Clementi was Italian by birth (1752-1832) but had spent much of his life in England prior to the famous musical duel between himself and Mozart which took place in 1781. A few weeks ago you listened to a reenactment of that duel, set up by Emperor Joseph II. It was hotly debated afterwards as to who won the contest, which gives us an idea of how popular Clementi was and how his technique and ability to improvise even rivaled that of Mozart’s.
The reason Clementi is called the father of modern pianoforte playing is because he not only influenced the way the piano was played by his own performances but he also wrote his ideas down in a book called, The Art of Playing the Piano Forte which continued to be used long after his death. He wrote many exercises and skill development passages which are still used today. Remember that the piano was a relatively new instrument and many people still played it just like they played the harpsichord. The standard way of playing in the 18th c. was to detach one note from another. It was really Clementi and Mozart also, who championed and promoted the more legato style of playing the piano in contrast to the detached style of the Baroque era.
Many of you have learned or are currently learning one of Clementi’s Sonatinas, but he also wrote twelve, full length Sonatas some of which are on par with those written by Beethoven. This week you will listen to the Sonata in b minor, Op. 40 No. 2. Listen to the dramatic opening which is similar, in that it moves from a slow opening to a faster development, to the Pathetique Sonata of Beethoven. The performer is Gianluca Luissi.