MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

Muzio CLEMENTI (1752-1832)
The Complete Piano Sonatas - Volume 3
CD 1
Sonata in B flat major Op. 13, no. 4 [11:54]
Sonata in F major Op. 13, no. 5 [12:15]
Sonata in F flat minor Op. 13, no. 6 [15:27]
Sonata in C major Op. 20 [14:46]
Sonata in F major WO3 [8:25]
CD 2
Sonata in E flat major Op. 23, no. 1 [8:22]
Sonata in F major Op. 23, no. 2 [14:21]
Sonata in E flat major Op. 23, no. 3 [10:42]
Sonata in F major Op. 24, no 1 [12:54]
Sonata in B flat major Op. 24, no 2 [12:19]
Howard Shelley (piano)
rec. 30 September - 3 October 2008, St Silas the Martyr, London. DDD
HYPERION CDA67729 [63:17 + 59:03]
Experience Classicsonline

It's barely six months since we looked at Volume II of this outstanding series of the complete piano sonatas of Muzio Clementi from Howard Shelley, on Hyperion.

Once again the pianist plays a modern Steinway, which has to be the only minor cavil. Rather, we should happily see past that - to the gentle, original and - it has to be said - too infrequently heard music of Clementi, who was, amazingly, born a couple of years after Bach died, and himself died just five years after Schubert. That makes Clementi's music significantly advanced for its time… adventurous use of melody; freedoms ('liberties', one might almost say) with tempi, and experiments with harmony redolent of Mozart - the end of the allegro from the F major sonata (Opus 13, no. 5) [CD1 tr.4], for example.

But Shelley is just as alert to the essence of the music as a beautiful artefact almost regardless of the ground it was breaking and written to please the predominantly London audiences who first heard it during a time when most of the rest of Europe was experiencing political and social change. That is, the pianist brings a gentleness and peace, a serenity, to the sonatas - chiefly by being ever conscious of the structure of each one.

Ever aware of the, often sombre, mood of these works too, Shelley has totally absorbed them in such a way that their presence is felt as much when they're over as it is when being listened to. Such 'moods' are less pronounced than those in Haydn's Sturm und Drang works - and decidedly more tempered than even middle Beethoven. But not so detached as Mozart's darker passages.

This emotional charge is hard to communicate without centring on, say, key changes - much of Clementi's more persuasive piano writing is in minor keys - or places where the composer dwells on a colourful idea. Instead, Shelley achieves these expressive affects by concentrating on the architecture. By playing, one is tempted to say, as Clementi might have played; by stopping well short of disregarding the emotions which he knew he had put into the sonatas; and assuming that we all know sadness, joy, loss and so on sufficiently well for nothing to need labouring. To achieve such a distance yet retain as much style as Shelley does is remarkable - and contributes to the many reasons why this release must be so highly thought of.

But his approach is not relaxed; nor 'easy-going'; still less lazy. Shelley remains in command at all times and is certainly 'driving' the music. He has made it his own, seems to have done so more than in the previous two volumes of this series. But not in the sense that his own performing repertoire is so broad that he can look at Clementi askance. Rather because he is completely aware that the music's internal logic and development make certain demands on a sensitive pianist - and Shelley is up to every such demand.

Again, for example, the variations in tempi that Shelley employs in that same sonata's (Op. 13/5) presto [CD.1 tr 6] indicate a confidence not to impose his will onto music that doesn't need it. Generally, Shelley is happy to shine light in corners that might otherwise be missed - by judicious use of rallentando, for example. Such skill is noticeable as the extremely light touch in passages such as the middle of the largo of the F minor (Op. 13, no. 6) [CD.1 tr.8]. It confers a delicacy on the music that one associates as much with Uchida's or Brendel's late Schubert. It also hints at the personal turmoil through which the composer passed during the years in which these sonatas were written - but without hanging their musical impact on it.

The Op. 13 sonatas (published in May 1785) are so arranged here that we move from the good to the better to the best: number 6 is remarkable in more ways than one. But the two that follow (the Op. 20, Without Op. 3) have much in them to please. Those, and the Opp. 23 and 24 on the second CD were written when - for whatever reason - Clementi seems to have put the traumas of his love affair and unhappy travels in Europe during 1780-83 behind him and was allowing the London musical scene to sweep him into some sort of order and routine. The music, though, is anything but routine. Once more, Shelley effortlessly gets to its essence in every way.

The recording is plain and clean, where by 'plain' is meant that nothing interferes acoustically with the sound of the piano. The liner-notes are informative, and the double CD represents good value for money. If you've been waiting for this third volume happy or enthralled with the other two, don't hesitate to buy it. If you're new to the repertoire and wonder if this series really represents the landmark it seems to, be assured on the evidence of this volume alone that it does.

Mark Sealey


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.