Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Muzio Clementi, Part 2
In part one we saw how Clementi came on the scene before Beethoven, studied with a relative and then under the patronage of Sir Peter Beckford. It really pays to be excellent on your instrument, people take notice and will invest in you.
Coming Into His Prime
At 18, Muzio was freed from his duties to Sir Peter and moved to London. There he performed the harpsichord and conducted (from the keyboard) at King's Theatre in Haymarket, around London.
In 1780, he toured Europe. In Paris, he played for Queen Marie Antoinette. He went to Munich, Germany, and Salzburg, Austria. In Vienna, Austria, he agreed to compete with Mozart on the keyboard in front of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II. Guess who won? The emperor declared a tie, very nice guy.
Mozart doesn't seem to have liked young Signour Clementi. He wrote to his own father, "Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians. He marks a piece presto and plays only allegro." But Muzio was quite impressed with Mozart and, later on, Mozart came to respect Muzio. They influenced each others' style and borrowed from each others' music. In fact, Mozart used the opening motif of Muzio's B-flat Major Sonata in his overture for "The Magic Flute".
From 1783-1803, Muzio stayed in London and taught music. In 1798, he added more to his work by taking over a music publishing firm in London. Perhaps Jane Austen, the famous authoress of the Regency era, bought music from 'Clementi & Co' at their warehouse in Cheapside or Tottenham Court Road. At this time, Muzio also began a piano manufacturing buisness. Sadly, one of his manufacturing warehouses burnt down and he lost about 40,000 pounds.
After developing a relationship with Mozart, Muzio struck a deal with Ludwig van Beethoven and received the rights to print all of Beethoven's music. Muzio was criticised for "correcting" some of Beethoven's music - adjusting harmonies he thought were wrong, for example.
In 1810 Muzio stopped performing publicly so he could devote his time to composing and piano-making. Around this time, he and a group of other well-known musicians founded a music society that became the Royal Philharmonic Society. His piano-making buisness flourished, and he invented several improvements in piano construction, some of which are still used today.
At the end of 1816, Muzio made a trip to Europe, to present some of his new works in Paris and Frankfurt. Over the next eight years he made several trips throughout Europe. Perhaps he visited his family back in Italy. But he always came back to England.
Muzio's last public performance was at the opening concert of the Society he helped found. He retired form the Society in 1830 at seventy-eight years old.
He spent his final years in Evesham, a town in Worchester, England. On March 10, 1832, he doed after a short illness. He was eighty years old.
Muzio was buried at Westminster Abbey, attended by several of his students. He had been married three times and had five children. His gravestone reads:
"Muzio Clementi, called 'Faher of the Pianoforte'. His fame as a musician and composer, acknowleged throughout Europe, procured him the honour of a public interment in this cloister. Born at Rome, 1752; died at Evesham, 1812."
Muzio Clementi was the first to create keyboard works just for the pianoforte, or piano. He composed almost 110 piano sonatas, along with several symphonies and operas. His earlier, easier piano sonatas are called sonatinas. Later composers used his sonatas as models for keyboard compositions. Muzio's piano compositions are known for being delightful and, though difficult, good practice for young pianists.