Friday, February 05, 2010

Clementi's orchestral works: discovery, or rediscovery: a "music blogger"?

The other day, WETA in Washington broadcast the Symphony #1 in C by Muzio Clementi from a CD called “contemporaries of Mozart”, which I could not find on Amazon. But I did find a 3-CD set on the Stemra-Brilliant Classics label (link) of all the published orchestra works, including the four “big” symphonies (C, D, G “The Great National”, D) and the two little symphontinas from Op 18, as well as the Piano Concerto in C (that has appeared before on Vox/Turnabout) with Pietro Spada, piano; the Philharmonia Orchestra of London is conducted by Francesco D’Avalos (the recording dates to 1992). The slow movement of the G Major has the “My Country “Tis of Thee” theme. Amazon sells the entire set for $16.95, so it is a bargain.

The music listener can look up Wiliam Youngren’s May 1996 Atlantic article, “Finisher symphonies: Clementi’s neglected orchestral musicis far better than his neglected reputation suggests”, link here. Clementi was a music publisher also; but with his own works he behaved like a blogger, constantly revising them, so it is difficult to determine definitive editions.

As with Wilms, the style of the music straddles later Haydn and early Beethoven, with some harmonic mannerisms from Beethoven’s early period (and a tendency for martial slow movements, sometimes with well known anthem themes), but with perhaps more exuberance and less subtlety. Clementi knows how to use dissonance to sustain tension, however, and in that respects foreshadows Beethoven and Schubert. Is his harmonic technique absolutely correct enough to sustain repeated hearings, as with the later masters? Clementi also uses a lot of counterpoint, and sometimes unusual tonality schemes in his sonata forms.

CD-3 is all D Major!

CD-1 has the two perfunctory Op 18 symphonies, and mistakenly says that both "symphonies" are in B-flat. The second is in D, which is correctly state on the CD box.

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