The G minor Sonata Op 34 No 2 stands out as one of Clementi’s finest. Often at his best when working in minor keys, he unites in this work seemingly unrelated stylistic fashions into a seamless whole of great expressive power. The Largo e sostenuto opening, with its distinctive three-stroke theme, becomes an abrasively dissonant chromatic fugato whose subject is transformed into the first material of the following Allegro con fuoco. The return of the Largo at the entry of the recapitulation—anticipating Beethoven’s similar stratagem in his sonatas Op 13 (‘Pathétique’) and Op 31 No 2 (‘Tempest’)—confirms its status as something more integral than the ordinary slow introduction. Throughout this urgent, rushing movement informal contrapuntal writing first heard in that Largo mingles with idiomatic and thoroughly modern keyboard figurations. The second movement enters as a gentle barcarolle melody accompanied by an innocent dotted-note irritant that later becomes a distinctly un-gentle secondary theme. The sonata ends with a driving, tight-knit ‘sonata-allegro’ movement that affirms the overall serious—if not desperate—tone of this work. Informal polyphonic writing at the outset recalls the texture of the first movement, and with the arrival of the second theme we hear a specific reference back to the three-stroke figure that began the opening Largo. This remarkable work, published in 1795, easily bears comparison with Beethoven’s ‘debut’ Sonatas Op 2, published the same year.
from notes by Leon Plantinga © 2010