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Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) was born in Rome, the eldest of seven children. He was taught the basics of music by the local church choirmaster. Later he started learning the organ, and made such sensational progress that he obtained a position as church organist when he was still in his early teens. In 1766 Clementi was taken to England by the wealthy Englishman Sir Peter Beckford, who provided for his lodging and musical education in return for musical entertainment at his estate in Dorset. His public debut as a pianist a few years later was a tremendous success. He moved to London, where he performed frequently as a soloist and directed concerts from the keyboard. Later, he went on tour as far as St. Petersburg, and by the 1780s he was considered one of the great keyboard virtuosos of the world. His reputation irritated Mozart, who described him as a charlatan. Clementi, on the other hand, was a real admirer of Mozart, but developed a completely different piano style, with great dynamic contrasts, rapid octaves and thundering arpeggios, paving the way for Beethoven and the romantics.
A piano contest between Clementi and Mozart in Vienna was more or less declared a draw. Clementi led a very productive life in London, playing, conducting, teaching (his pupils include J. B. Cramer and John Field) and manufacturing pianos.
Eventually he abandoned his performing career to spend more time building pianos and composing. His works include vocal and chamber works, symphonies, a piano concerto, and over a hundred piano sonatas and sonatinas. The easier sonatinas and his three volumes of studies called Gradus ad Parnassum have been central to piano teaching ever since. His other works have suffered from widespread neglect, perhaps because of Mozart´s unkind comments.
Vladimir Horowitz was one of the very few major pianists of the 20th century who appreciated Clementi´s music - since his time the composer has slowly begun to attract more interest. Clementi died a very rich man, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Mozart (letter to his father): "Clementi plays well, as far as execution with the right hand goes. His greatest strength lies in his passages in 3rds. Apart from that, he has not a kreuzer’s worth of taste or feeling – in short he is a mere mechanicus"

Clementi about Mozart: "Until then I had never heard anyone play with such spirit and grace".

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Total pieces by Clementi: 53

Collections - Clementi
Clementi - Gradus ad Parnassum (29 pieces)
Clementi - Sonatas (10 pieces)
Clementi - Sonatinas (13 pieces)
Clementi - Miscellaneous Pieces (1 pieces)

Posts in the piano forum about Clementi:

xx Clementi & Field
November 25, 2007, 10:32:34 PM by thalbergmad

Indeed i have been reading an interesting book on the life of Field and his music.

I had read before that Clementi had treated Field little better than a slave, but it now appears that he did introduce him to certain members of the Russian nobility, that ensured his future success and put him in charge of his Piano Warehouse in St Petersberg. In addition, whilst Clementi was tight fisted with Field, he was no more generous with himself and would always do his own washing whilst in St Petersberg, to avoid charges from the local linen ladies. This is rather incredible as at this time, Clementi was remarkably rich.

Field in later life appears to have been totally the reverse and would throw his concert fee's on the floor of his apartment, which much to his amusement was often eaten by his dog. On another occasion, he lit his cigar with a 100 Rouble note that had been given to him after a concert.

I think Clementi has received some bad press about his relationship with Field, so over 170 years after his death, i think we should give him a break.


xx Re: Muzio Clementi
July 15, 2005, 08:32:12 PM by Barbosa-piano

 I think Clementi is a great composer that has been ignored for a great deal of time. His Sonatinas are masterpieces, and his Gradus ad Parnassum is a superb set of technical Etudes. Even Chopin gave Clementi's material for his students to study, such as the Gradus ad Parnassum and Preludes and Exercises. Some of Clementi's Octave Etudes can be very challenging. Beethoven did the same to his students, as Bernhard said previously. In the book Piano Notes, Charles Rosen says that Mozart thought Clementi was a charlatan, "although he admited that Clementi knew how to play rapid passages in thirds (Mozart solved the problem of his own inferiority in this respect by never writing such pasages)..."
Another quote:  The most accurate description of Beethoven's regard for Clementi's music can be found in the testimony of his assistant, Anton Schindler, who wrote the following: "He {Beethoven} had the greatest admiration for these sonatas, considering them the most beautiful, the most pianistic of works, both for their lovely, pleasing, original melodies and for the consistent, easily followed form of each movement. Beethoven had but little liking for Mozart's piano music, and the musical education of his beloved nephew was confined for many years almost exclusively to the playing of Clementi sonatas." (Beethoven as I Knew Him, ed. Donald M. MacArdle, trans. Constance S. Jolly, Chapel Hill and London, 1966).

This site contains very interesting information on Clementi:

It also describes how Clementi had an impact on the composers of his time.

Another site that is worth reading:

I still find great use in Clementi's works, and I think he is a great composer that should not be forgotten.

Mario Barbosa

xx Re: Muzio Clementi
July 15, 2005, 07:57:19 PM by musicsdarkangel

Clementi was known to be a better virtuoso than Mozart.

Mozart was bitter to him, they had a duel, and Clementi complimented Mozart even though he had played better, and Mozart made some snyde remark.

Kind of funny.

He taught many great students.

Yeah, considering the time he lived, I agree, he is underrated.

xx Re: Muzio Clementi
July 15, 2005, 07:38:56 PM by bernhard

I agree.

And so did Beethoven. He thought Clementi piano sonatas were superior to Mozart's. He also gave his students Clementi's works.

Moreover Clementi was the teacher of John Field, who eventually moved to Russia, inveneted the Nocturne and created the Russian school of piano playing. One of the reasons I think the Russian school should be renamed the "Italian-Irish School of Piano playing" Grin.

(The Irish mafia: they will make an offer you cannot understand. Grin)

Best wishes,

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