CLEMENTI: Progressive Sonatinas Op. 36 / Sonatas Opp. 24 and 25 (Balazs Szokolay/ Balazs Szokolay) (Naxos: 8.550452)
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Muzio Clementi (1752 - 1832)
Sonata in G Major, Op. 25 No.2
Sonata in F Sharp Minor, Op. 25 No.5
Sonatina in D Major, Op. 37 No.2
Six Progressive Sonatinas, Op. 36
Sonatina in D Major, Op. 36 No.6
Sonatina in G Major, Op. 36 No.5
Sonatina in G Major, Op. 36 No.2
Sonatina in C Major, Op. 36 No.1
Sonatina in C Major, Op. 36 No.3
Sonatina in F Major, Op. 36 No.4
Sonata in B Flat Major, Op. 24 No.2
Muzio Clernenti was born in Rome in 1752, the son of a silversmith. By the age of thirteen he had become proficient enough as a musician to be employedas organist at the Church of S. Lorenzo in Damaso and to attract the attention of anEnglish visitor, Peter Beckford, a cousin of William Beckford, author of Vathek andbuilder of the remarkable Gothic folly of Fonthill. Peter Beckford, as he himself claimed,bought Clementi from his father for a period of seven years, during which the boy lived atBeckford's estate in Darset, perfecting his ability as a keyboard player and, presumably,his general education. In 1774 Clernenti moved to London, where he began to take part inprofessional concert life as a composer and performer, playing his own sonatas, some ofwhich were published at this time, and directing performances at the Italian opera.
Clementi's success as a performer persuaded him to travel andin 1780 he played for Queen Marie Antoinette in France and early in 1782 for her brother,the Emperor Joseph II, in Vienna. Mozart met Clementi in January, when they were bothsummoned to play for the Emperor. Clementi improvised and then played a sonata, accordingto his later account, the Sonata in B flat major,Opus 24 No.2, and the Toccata, Opus 11.
Mozart then played and both of them shared the performance of sonatas by Paisiello, andimprovised on a theme from one of the sonatas on two pianos. Mozart had a poor opinion ofClementi's musical taste and feeling, but grudgingly admitted his technical ability inright-hand playing of passages in thirds: in other respects he was a mere mechanicus. Ayear later he wrote again about his rival, describing him as ciarlatano, a charlatan, likeall Italians, writing the direction Presto on his music, but playing merely Allegro, andadding that his sonatas were worthless: the passages in sixths and octaves he consideredstriking, but dangerous for his sister to practise and potentially damaging to herlightness of touch.
Mozart's opinion of Clementi has proved damaging to thelatter's reputation but it is possible that Mozart and Vienna suggested new styles ofplaying to Clementi, who returned to England in 1785, winning a distinguished place forhimself through the brilliance of his playing and for his piano teaching. He wrotesymphonies and concertos, but found his position threatened during Haydn's two visits toLondon in the 1790s. In the same decade he involved himself in piano manufacture and musicpublishing with Longman and Broderip and from 1798, after the firm's bankruptcy, inpartnership with Longman, Hyde, Banger and Collard. He travelled abroad extensively in theearlier years of the nineteenth century in the interests of the company. John Field, hispupil, was employed to demonstrate the new keyboard instruments and accompanied him toRussia, while in Vienna he secured the English publication rights for compositions byBeethoven, who held him in esteem as a composer and performer.
From 1810 Clementi was again in England, where he was muchrespected and won particular success for his teaching compositions, an Introduction to theArt of Playing the Piano Forte of 1801, revised in 1826, and the famous Gradus adParnassum, completed and published in the same year. He retired from business in 1830,settling first in Lichfield and then in Evesham, where he died in 1832, to be buried inWestminster Abbey. His legacy to pianists was a significant one, both through hiscompositions and through his teaching, an introduction to a new virtuosity and explorationof the possibilities of a newly developed instrument.
The six sonatas of Op. 25, were published in 1791 by JosephDale. Op. 25, No.2, has a brilliant opening,soon leading to rapid triplets, a continuing feature of the movement. The second movementrondo has a simple principal theme and includes, in its course, a G minor episode. Thelyrical F sharp minor sonata Op. 25, No.5,won particular praise, its slow movement the inspiration for a poem by the late nineteenthcentury Vicenza poet Antonio Fogazzaro. The last movement includes passages in thirds, atechnique for which Clementi was particularly well known both as performer and composer.
The Sonatina in D major, Op. 37, No.2,variously numbered, appeared as one of a set of three. It remains thoroughlycharacteristic of Clementi's earlier work.
The six Progressive Pianoforte Sonatinas were written in 1797and revised in 1820. The first of the set, in C major, offers an ingenuous first subject,followed by a brief modulation to the dominant and a development of similar length. Thereis an F major slow movement and a final lively return to the original key. The secondsonatina of the group, in G major, provides the player with a marginally greaterchallenge, leading to a second movement in dotted rhythm and a final movement in 3/8metre. The third sonatina, in C major, opens with a first subject formed from thedescending arpeggio, the development opening with the same figure inverted. The G majormovement, in two parts only, cans for cantabile playing and leads to a final C majorAllegro. The following sonatina, in F major, includes a B flat major slow movement and afinal energetic rondo with triplet rhythms. This is followed by the fifth sonatina, in Gmajor, in which the running triplets of the first movement are succeeded by a Swiss airand a closing rondo of dynamic contrast. Opus 36
ends with a further D Major sonatina, with an opening over an Alberti bass and a secondmovement that makes characteristic use of thirds.
The Sonata in B flat Major,Op. 24 No.2, was published in 1788-9 in Mozart's friend Stephen Storace'sCollection of Original Harpsichord Music. It was revised and re-issued as Op. 41 No.2 in 1804. It was suggested that Mozartremembered the sonata from the Vienna court performance of 1782, when he came to write theOverture to The Magic Flute in 1791. Any thematic resemblance is probably coincidental,although the modem listener cannot but be aware of the similarity of the first subject.
The Hungarian pianist Balazs Szokolay was born in Budapest in1961, the son of a mother who is a pianist and a father who is a composer and professor atthe Liszt Academy. He started learning the piano when he was five and in 1970 entered thepreparatory class of the Budapest Music Academy, where he completed his studies with PalKadosa and Zoltan Kocsis in 1983. He later spent two years at the Academy of Music inMunich, with a German government scholarship.
Balazs Szokolay made an early international appearance withpeter Nagy at the Salzburg Interforum in1979, and in 1983 substituted for Nikita Magaloffin Belgrade in a performance of the Piano Concerto No.1 of Brahms. He is now a soloistwith the Hungarian State Orchestra and has given concerts in a number of countries abroad,including Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Poland, the former Soviet Union, Bulgariaand the former Czechoslovakia. In September, 1987, he made his recital debut at the Roya