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Muzio CLEMENTI (1752-1832)
Overture in D (compl. Pietro Spada) [8:44]
Symphony no.1 in C, WoO 32 (ed. Pietro Spada) [26:54]
Symphony no.2 in D, WoO 33 (ed. Pietro Spada) [24:32]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia
rec. OSR Studios, Rome, 29-30 December 2011.
NAXOS 8.573071 [60:10] 

Overture in C [13:21]
Symphony no.3 in G, WoO 34 (ed. Pietro Spada) [29:23]
Symphony no.4 in D, WoO 35 (ed. Pietro Spada) [28:48]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia
rec. OSR Studios, Rome, 20-22 January 2012 (Symphonies); 29-30 December 2011 (Overture).
NAXOS 8.573112 [71:32]

There is surprisingly effusive critical praise from several quarters for the first of these two volumes of Clementi symphonies, both released this year by Naxos, and presumably to be followed by a third, thereby covering all six mature extant works.
 
From the first bars it is evident that audio quality is off the summit - whilst probably acceptable to all but audiophiles, it has a distinct thinnish, slightly tinny quality, especially evident in the higher-volume tutti passages. In the digital era Italy has produced some of the shakiest recordings in qualitative terms - these all-Italian affairs are not among them, for sure, but they certainly come off second best by comparison with the 1990s Chandos recording of three of Clementi's symphonies by the London Mozart Players (LMP) under Matthias Bamert (CHAN 9234). Both recordings are better than the one on Erato/Apex (2564627622, review), which covers the same ground as the first two Naxos discs, but has lossier-sounding audio and a few obvious editing joins - the Penguin Guide's conclusion, "recorded sound is excellent" can only be a misprint. As a matter of fairness, it must be noted that Chandos's engineering is not perfect either, a little over-reverberant and with a fairly narrow stereo forcing orchestral sections to merge into each other somewhat.
 
As far as performances go, the Rome Symphony Orchestra (RSO) is a decent enough outfit, and give a more faithful, more committed account of these works than the Philharmonia Orchestra under Claudio Scimone on Apex, who think they are playing Brahms. Yet the RSO in their turn do not really compete with the LMP, although there is a definite improvement with the second album, recorded a month on in late January - Christmas distractions well out of the way?
 
Neither Naxos nor Chandos oust the three early-nineties ASV recordings by the Philharmonia Orchestra, this time conducted by Francesco d'Avalos, a cycle of all six symphonies, the two overtures and a piano concerto played by Pietro Spada, whose sterling editions and additions have made these Clementi works performable. These are still widely available over the internet at prices that more or less match those of Naxos (CDDCA802, CDDCA803, CDDCA804).
 
At any rate, Clementi's symphonies are among the best to have come out of Italy. In his lifetime his genius received due recognition, and he was ranked second only to Haydn. There is little doubt Haydn would have been happy to put his name to some of these works. Musicians, critics and the public have always been fickle, however, and today his exciting, elegant symphonies struggle to be heard. These discs, though not perfect, help to straighten up the record.
 
Byzantion
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