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Muzio CLEMENTI (1752-1832)
Preludio alla Haydn in C major
Sonata in F minor (c. 1778)
Capriccio in B flat major (1787)
Sonata in G minor (1795)
Preludio alla Mozart in A major
Sonata in F major (1794)
Fantasy with Variations on ‘Au Clair de la Lune’
Andreas Saier, fortepiano
Recorded February 1999, Studio Deutschland Radio, Köln
WARNER ELATUS 256460676-2 [67.25]

 

Muzio Clementi has much in common with Antonio Salieri, 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 is that Clementi remains well worth hearing today.

This is a full and imaginatively planned recital, covering the range of Clementi’s style and offering the listener a satisfying experience, whether taken in whole or in part. For this credit should also be given to the Warner Classics recording team, the producer Uwe Walter and the engineer Tobias Lehmann. For the tricky business of creating an appropriate acoustic and balance to give a pleasing sound to a fortepiano has been handled with the utmost assurance. This has contributed significantly to the success of the venture.

None of this is to detract from the stylish and skilful playing of Andreas Staier. Like Clementi, he seems most at ease when bright, clear textures and fast tempi are the order of the day. Accordingly the allegros fare well, particularly in the fiery G minor Sonata, where some of the playing and piano writing is particularly exciting.

Clementi seems less convincing when it comes to sustaining the tensions across a longer span in slow music. Clearly this puts extra strain on both the player and the instrument, and while some of the ideas themselves sound distinctive, even compelling, the longer-term considerations of tension and line do come into question.

That point made – and it is made only as a relative comment – this disc is well worth acquiring by anyone interested in exploring interesting byways of the repertory. It also tells us much about the nature of piano music during the Classical Period. Clementi in his time was a major international celebrity, and hearing these performances makes it easy to understand why.

Terry Barfoot

 


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