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Clementi Sandwich

Clementi and Clementi

This is a post in response to some confusion that arose about two composers sharing the last name Clementi (Aldo & Muzio). After spending some time listening to the music of both of them, I began to wonder what their music would sound like together (see below). Despite the bizarre fusion of the two, this blog and musical exploration is a gesture of respect to both of these Italian composers. The combined materials of my musical-conflation come from Aldo Clementi’s “Duo Canoni” (performed by the Ives Ensemble) and a 14 minute selection from Muzio Clementi’s piano works (performed by Andreas Staier). Links to the recordings are found below.

This whole thing comes about after a colleague of mine wrote the following on Facebook:

Anyone know a possible composer for a mysterious ‘Passacaglia for flute and tape?’ Spotify doesn’t list a composer at all, while iTunes attributes the work to Muzio Clementi. Pretty sure that’s false. Also, I’m all about technology and stuff, but CD liner notes really were a good idea.

I too lament the loss of liner notes. They contextualized music very well and without them I imagine more people end up spending time writing blogs like this, and you lose time reading them.

Anyway, in response to my colleague’s question I suggested:

Umm, did you try the other Clementi (Aldo)? …..

Clementi-Aldo-06The post went on …. but the benefit of the question was that it made me listen to music from both composers.

I had heard a few pieces by the younger, Aldo Clementi (1925-2011), and was taken by his slow unfolding of his use of decelerating canons and his overall relaxed approach to musical time. It’s elegant music and definitely worth listening to when you want time to pass in a gradual way. Aldo Clementi has also been championed by groups like Quatour Bozzini and the Ives Ensemble.

As with the Muzio Clementi (1725-1832) my experience involved playing one of his piano sonatinas (the chipper one that almost every piano student plays and I also knew that splendid satirical piece by Erik Satie that parodied this same sonata, Sonatine bureaucratique). Perhaps this little sonata, so often inflicted on piano students, has cast M.Clementi in negative way? I say this because despite being a name much in the air of western music history, I think the scope of Muzio Clementi’s output is not so often recognized. It’s an impressive amount of music and it’s high in quality. A lot of piano works (110 piano sonatas) and a lot of accolades from other big-fish in music history: Czerny, Liszt, and also Horowitz who championed and recorded his music in the 1950’s.

M.Clementi wrote a significant number of symphonies too. I recently listened to the Symphony in G major, No.3 – The Great National – with the tune of ‘God Save the King/Queen’ nicely woven through the piece. Not sure what the history behind this symphony is, anyone else know?

Muzio Clementi should also be seen as the stuff of legend on account of him tying in a piano competition with Mozart—a competition adjudicated by the patron of the arts: Emperor Joseph II who was represented by Jeffery Jones in the movie Amadeus (a side note is that the Emperor was not known to be as musically “thick” as he was depicted in this film).

So having gotten a better sense of the two Clementi’s I inevitably got creative. If you skipped it above here it is again, my Clementi Sandwich:

Note: I mixed these two tracks together, it’s not so arbitrary, and I also didn’t just select anything to put together: the forte-piano of M.Clementi, being tuned at A=430, jars “splendidly” with the rendition of A.Clementi’s “Duo Canoni” performed quite well by the now defunct Ives ensemble. The piano selections from M.Clementi start at minute 10 from this performance:

Other Places of Interest:

  • A  more detailed biography of Muzio Clementi – click here.
  • The Gaurdian’s 2011 obituary on Aldo Clementi.
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