Muzio Clementi (1750-1832)

Episodes

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01Father Of The Pianoforte20120917

Donald Macleod focuses on Clementi's early years.

This week Donald Macleod celebrates the life and music of Muzio Clementi, popularly known as "the father of the pianoforte". He takes a trip to Finchcocks Musical Museum in Goudhurst, Kent, to look at a unique selection of Clementi pianos and marks the contribution Clementi has made to piano literature, with works ranging from his Opus 40 and 50 piano sonatas, through brilliant virtuoso pieces to graded works written specially for learners, and perhaps more surprisingly for a composer who's so closely associated with the piano, the series also includes some rarely heard symphonic jewels of their day and selected chamber music.

It's a measure of the high regard in which he was held in his adopted country, that Muzio Clementi's buried in Westminster Abbey. The commemorative plain black marble slab, which accords him the title "the father of the pianoforte", acts as a reminder of the part he has played in the popularisation of the piano. In his lifetime he was famous as a virtuoso keyboard performer and a teacher, not only to the aristocracy but also to succeeding generations of keyboard players, including John Field, Ludwig Berger, later Mendelssohn's teacher and Frederic Kalkbrenner, a virtuoso soloist who taught Chopin. Clementi attained further prominence as a piano manufacturer and published some of the best known manuals for the instrument, among them "Introduction to the Art of playing on the Piano Forte" and "Gradus ad Parnassum". At one time it was said that Clementi was more famous than Mozart and Haydn as well as being much admired by Beethoven, whose music he published. However, since his death in 1832, despite being championed by the likes of Vladimir Horowitz, Clementi's reputation seems to have dwindled in comparison to that illustrious trio.

The story begins in Clementi's native Italy, with an Englishman who was enjoying the Grand Tour. Whilst he was in Rome, Peter Beckford heard Clementi play and was quick to identify the teenager's talent. Beckford effectively "bought" the services of Clementi from his silversmith father and promptly transported him to his country estate in Dorset. There Clementi remained in seclusion, and spent his time perfecting his art for seven years. When he reached the age of majority at twenty-one, he was free to leave and set about establishing a name for himself in London, where music was already a lucrative and popular entertainment.

02Mozart's Rival20120918

Focusing on the summer of 1780, when Clementi found himself in a piano contest with Mozart

Now a famous figure in London, in the summer of 1780 Muzio Clementi decides to spread his wings. After an enthusiastic reception from Marie Antoinette in Paris, at the invitation of the Emperor Joseph II, he travels to Vienna, where an enthralling piano contest with Mozart takes place.

03The Keyboard Entrepreneur20120919

Donald Macleod finds out about Clementi's entrepreneurial skills.

As well as being a successful composer and virtuoso keyboard player Muzio Clementi was also a very successful piano manufacturer and music publisher. Today, Donald Macleod is at Finchcocks Musical Museum in Goudhurst, Kent, once again, to look at how Clementi was able to exploit these business interests while still maintaining a profile as a musician.

04The Piano Teacher20120920

Donald Macleod looks at the collection of Clementi pianos at Finchcocks Musical Museum.

Today Donald Macleod is at Finchcocks Musical Museum in Goudhurst, Kent to take a look around its collection of Clementi pianos, which range in shape, size and finish from a top of the range Grand Piano made in 1822, to more modest models made for domestic use.

05 LASTClementi's Legacy20120921

Donald Macleod sums up Clementi's varied achievements.

By the time of his death in 1832, Muzio Clementi was an influential figure on the London musical scene and a founding member of what's now known as the Royal Philharmonic Society. In conclusion, Donald Macleod sums up the composer's diverse achievements and discovers from Clementi's great great great grandson how the Clementi name continues to be associated with music through Finchcocks Musical Museum.

Prelude I (alla Clementi)

Howard Shelley (piano)

Hyperion CDA 67850

CD2 Track 30

Capriccio in C major, Op. 47 no. 2

CD1 Tracks 7 to 9

Symphony no. 4 in D major

Philharmonia Orchestra

Claudio Scimone (conductor)

Erato 4509-92191-2

CD2 Tracks 5 to 8.

05 LASTClementi's Legacy20120921

By the time of his death in 1832, Muzio Clementi was an influential figure on the London musical scene and a founding member of what's now known as the Royal Philharmonic Society. In conclusion, Donald Macleod sums up the composer's diverse achievements and discovers from Clementi's great great great grandson how the Clementi name continues to be associated with music through Finchcocks Musical Museum.

Prelude I (alla Clementi)

Howard Shelley (piano)

Hyperion CDA 67850

CD2 Track 30

Capriccio in C major, Op. 47 no. 2

Howard Shelley (piano)

Hyperion CDA 67850

CD1 Tracks 7 to 9

Symphony no. 4 in D major

Philharmonia Orchestra

Claudio Scimone (conductor)

Erato 4509-92191-2

CD2 Tracks 5 to 8.

05 LASTClementi's Legacy20120921

Donald Macleod sums up Clementi's varied achievements.