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Hyperion Records

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Classical Scene by Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765)
Roy Miles Gallery, 29 Bruton Steet, London W1 / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67850
Recording details: October 2010
St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Annabel Connellan
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: September 2011
Total duration: 21 minutes 9 seconds

'This enticing seventh (and final) volume of Clementi's works for solo piano is a notable achievement on several levels. The same team … have combined to produce no fewer than 14 CDs of remarkably uniform quality, insight and interest in a mere 4 years … there are over 152 minutes of music on the present discs, much of it demanding. How Shelley manages to absorb it all and then convince you that he has been playing it all his life with his characteristic elegance and dexterity is a gift given to few. Such an eminent composer deserves no less' (Gramophone)

Musical Characteristics, Op 19

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Musical Characteristics is a whimsical collection of ‘preludes and cadences’, as the original title has it, in the styles of six different composers, including Clementi himself. Preludes—bits of preparatory playing before a performance—were also expected to sound improvisatory. (When reporting to his father on the celebrated piano contest with Clementi in 1781, Mozart mentioned that both pianists ‘praeludierte’ before playing their prepared selections.) These brief Preludes are capricious things, laden with passagework, and interrupted with constant changes in texture and tempo.

It is not entirely clear what Clementi had in mind here: are these fragments meant as serious imitations, perhaps as a handy crib for amateur pianists who had trouble improvising their own preludes and cadenzas? Or are they to be taken as parodies? Both interpretations may have something to be said for them. The Haydn imitations sound at points rather like Haydn (the second one seems to refer to Haydn’s recent C major Sonata, Hob XVI:20), and the Mozart ones, too, seem to be respectful imitations. But the Preludes ‘alla Sterkel’ surely reveal a parodic intent. The music of the German pianist Franz Xaver Sterkel (1750–1817), sometimes described as a bit saccharine, is lampooned with a plethora of performance directions such as calando and con espressione; one four-bar phrase is even marked allegretto dolce e con molta espressione. But Clementi seems at his best when imitating himself. The second Prelude ‘alla Clementi’ is a sparkling little virtuoso fantasy with the brilliant broken octaves and passages in thirds that were seen as his trademarks.

from notes by Leon Plantinga © 2011

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