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Friday, January 28, 2005
  Sonata in G Minor, Op. 34, No. 2, Largo e sostenuto--Allegro con fuoco (first movement)
Muzio Clementi (1752-1832)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 8 Tracks 43-51

It is difficult to appreciate Cleminti's lengthy opener after listening to the streamlined Rondo from Beethoven's Op. 13. Like the Peri/Monteverdi comparison this anthology provoked in earlier pages, the older composer suffers the disadvantage of the cutting edge. In our memory Clementi fits snugly between two giants of the first Viennese school: Mozart and Beethoven. And though lacking love from his sparing partner, Mozart, Clementi was clearly an influential voice for both, particularly in the development of idiomatic piano writing. And thanks to the more recent affection of Vladimir Horowitz, Muzio has, so to speak, stayed in the game.

The difficulty, I feel, is that, unlike Mozart and Beethoven, Clementi often seems to rely on filler. It appears to happen on two levels. First, in the sound of his music. The chords are often too thick, octave doublings are unconvincing, and the Alberti bass is often overbearing. Second, Clementi does not have the sharp storytelling technique we find in Mozart's operas and Beethoven's operatic piano sonatas. For example, track 47 should lead into the thematic transformation of track 48. Instead, every time I have listen to the piece my attention drifts during this transition and I am just not very impressed by what comes next.

Nevertheless, I love the soft chromatic tangle leading into track 51. And, most of all, the opening is wonderful. Clementi asks the pianist to repeat the same pitch three times slowly than fall a fifth. As the first voice moves into the dotted sobbing, the second voice enters and we feel something beautifully wrong in the part writing. Searchingly, the pianist stretches and falls from this pitch to that, then finds a D Major chord and we wait....

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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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