The F sharp minor Sonata—usually identified as Op 26 No 2 but in fact published originally by Dale of London as the fifth of ‘Six Sonatas for the Piano Forte; dedicated to Mrs Meyrick … Opera 25’ (entered Stationers’ Hall, 8 June 1790)—is an example of what Shedlock in 1895 defined as that class of Clementi work where ‘his heart and soul were engaged’ to the full. The tenor of its first movement is a mixture of dolce expression, capricious fingerwork, off-beat sforzando accents, teasing articulation (the slurs and dots tell in an orchestral way), and tonal surprise (not least the polarity of the exposition which closes in the dominant minor, C sharp, rather than the expected relative major, A, of Classical routine). The reprise—expanded and developmental—is irregular: alternately bleak and brilliant in figuration and character, what it does in particular with the opening idea (imitatively, registrally, harmonically) is wittily provocative.
The middle slow movement is in B minor, a poignantly felt song, potently textured and voiced, dramatic in its contrasts of soft and loud, of minorial pathos and sweet maggiore release, of dark diminished-seventh tension, of poetically meaningful ornamentation. Structurally its shape is elegant and balanced, combining breadth of phrasing with economy of expression. The 3/8 Presto finale is an imaginatively inventive cameo of Scarlattian brilliance and Mendelssohnian fleetness, of glittering thirds and equally elfin and stormy octaves. Historically, such music is Classical. Temperamentally, it is Romantic.
from notes by Ates Orga ę 1995