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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Muzio Clementi, Sonatas for Piano and Violin, Anfossi, Vassilev

If you took classical piano lessons for any length of time, like I did, you invariably came across one or more Sonatinas by Muzio Clementi (1752-1832). I certainly enjoyed the one I was assigned, and found to my delight that Satie had parodied it in a piece of his own, but at the time I wasn't aware of how prolific and worthwhile his more advanced work was--for the piano alone he wrote more than 100 sonatas. He was the pioneer for realizing in composition the complex sonorities available to the pianist. And if he was overshadowed in part by Mozart and later by Beethoven, it was more in terms of stylistic development than in the quality of the music itself, at least as far as the chamber works were concerned.

Today's disk gives us a picture of the breadth of Clementi's music via a nice selection of his Sonatas for Piano and Violin (Newton Classics 8802110), ably played by Massimo Anfossi at the piano and Mario Vassilev on the violin.

It's no mistake that these works list the piano before the violin in their titles. The piano part is by far the more brilliantly conceived. The violin takes a structurally important role, plays a fundamental part in the thematic unravelling of each movement. But the piano takes on a more virtuoso, elaborated function in these duets.

Once you get used to that there is much lyrical and brio presence to these works and the duo at hand. Clementi was a crown jewel of the classical movement, appreciated by both Mozart and Beethoven and a strong influence on their music.

Listening today you take in all the complexities and fundamental structural brilliance of the music. We perhaps now can appreciate more than ever how important his music was to the development of the centrality of the pianoforte in classical music. Of course perhaps most importantly the music itself is a joy to hear.

Definitely recommended.

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