Muzio Clementi is one
of those composers whose name remains
before the public rather more than his
music is actually performed. He achieved
a fame within his lifetime which has
persisted, but how well do we know the
music? In this respect he has something
in common with Antonio Salieri. For
Clementi was a composer of piano music
who was and has been overshadowed by
Mozart and Beethoven, whereas Salieri
was a composer of operas who has been
overshadowed by Mozart. What this enterprising
recital tells us, in common with others
in the catalogue, is that Clementi remains
well worth hearing today.
This CPO disc is well
recorded and generously filled with
more than seventy minutes of music.
However, the approach Clementi brings
to these sonatas, whether they be for
two pianos or for piano duet, operates
within a particular stylistic framework,
and it is probably better to hear no
more than one or two sonatas at a time.
And why? For maximum enjoyment and edification
it is the music, not the packaged product,
that counts most.
On that basis this
CD brings excellent rewards. The music
is most skillfully written for either
combination: duo or two pianos, as the
case may be. It is also expertly performed
by Aglika Genova and Liuben Dimitrov,
who frequently play together under the
somewhat clumsy title Piano Duo Genova
and Dimitrov. Perhaps their agent ought
to have another look at that.
However, their playing
has marvellous sparkle and élan,
and brings Clementi forward as a real
talent in the context of the classical
style. The first movements move along
with vibrant momentum, and this is experienced
in both the lively tempi and the textures
too. The highlights tend to come in
the Allegro movements – the finale of
Opus 14 No. 3 is a particularly compelling
example – but they find room for poetry
also in the slow movements. These may
not be profound in the way that Mozart
and Beethoven can be profound, but they
are well judged and eminently civilized.
In a way the four hand
music of Clementi makes for more compelling
listening than his solo piano music.
This is because the more complex textures
bring interest in themselves. With its
full and informative accompanying booklet,
this issue is enthusiastically recommended.