Howard Shelley’s survey of the complete piano sonatas of Clementi was acclaimed not only as a set of benchmark performances, but also as the rediscovery of a composer who was uniquely important in his lifetime, which overlapped the careers of Scarlatti and Chopin. This set of Capriccios and Variations is something of a footnote to the series. The earlier works demonstrate Clementi’s lighter and more whimsical side. Most of this music was written to entertain and amuse, with many fantastical virtuoso flourishes of an improvisatory feel. The later works date from the nineteenth century, when Clementi was not quite as prolific as his younger self. Although many of these works, too, were designed for domestic use, there are exceptions such as the Two Capriccios Op 47. These are clearly ‘professional’ music: ambitious, dramatic, radically experimental, often determinedly chromatic, they show the septuagenarian composer still at work in the forefront of the most modern keyboard style.
Howard Shelley has made this repertoire his own. He performs with his usual impeccably stylish flair.