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Known in his later years as ‘the father of the pianoforte’ Muzio Clementi (1752–1832) established a dazzling career as teacher, composer, ‘most brilliant performer’ and maker of fine instruments. So it’s surprising that his extensive number of solo sonatas have barely registered today among performers and students by comparison with his contemporaries. Yet here is a hugely fertile creative mind who understood his instrument from all perspectives, and whose music is infinitely captivating and an immeasurable influence on composers of his own and later generations. Susan Alexander-Max’s objective to bring Clementi`s legacy back into the mainstream fold by recording his entire sonata output has been very sadly brought to an abrupt end by her recent untimely death.

At least we have four discs to enjoy though, and this last one brings together both early and late sonatas (op. 1 no. 3, op. 8, no. 2 and op. 50 nos. 2 and 3). Recorded at the Cobbe Collection in Hatchlands House, this generous 78 minute CD features two fine pianos by Broadwood (1816) and Longman and Broderip (1794–5). Central to the recording is Clementi’s towering op. 50 no. 3 titled Didone abandonata – Scena tragica, based on Virgil’s tragedy Dido and Aeneas.

Susan Alexander-Max exploits every operatic twist and turn in this vivid account of emotional turmoil and reflection, transporting the listener into a constantly changing world of musical colour. The lighter op. 1 no. 3 in G written during Clementi’s formative years in Dorset helps to diffuse the intensity created, and re-establishes late 18th-century grace and charm.

Katherine May Read the full review on Agora Classica


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