Muzio Clementi, classical music composer

Muzio Clementi image

Muzio Clementi

Biography

Muzio Clementi was lauded as the first virtuoso of the pianoforte, influenced several of the 19th century's greatest performers, and was praised as a composer by none other than Ludwig van Beethoven. Born in Rome, Italy on January 24, 1752, the eldest of seven children, Clementi's musical talents were recognized early. His father, a silversmith, encouraged Clementi to study music and arranged for his son to study with a relative, Antonio Baroni, maestro di capella at St. Peter's Basilica. In 1766, Sir Peter Beckford, a wealthy Englishman, visited Rome and was impressed with Clementi's talent. Beckford arranged with Clementi's father to take the young musician back with him to England and to provide for his musical education until he was 21. Once in England, Clementi provided musical entertainment in return for Beckford's patronage and spent the next seven years at the Englishman's estate.

In 1774 and no longer bound to Beckford's service, Clementi left for London, which would become his base of operations for much of his life. His reputation and frame, both as a performer and composer, grew over the subsequent years. In 1780, he began a three year tour of the European continent. It was during this tour, when he visited Vienna that he engaged in a famous contest with Mozart for the entertainment of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II in which both composers were required to improvise and perform selections from their own compositions. Joseph II declared a tie. Following the contest, Mozart was unimpressed with Clementi's playing, stating to his father that it was devoid of "taste or feeling," however his attitude toward Clementi changed over time. On the other hand, Clementi praised Mozart's performance.

Returning to England in 1783, Clementi focused on performing, conducting and teaching. Several of his students went on to be prominent musical figures in the 19th century and included, Johann Baptist Cramer, Ignaz Moscheles, Ludwig Berger (who later taught Felix Mendelssohn) and John Field. In 1790, Clementi gave up his performing career and turned his focus more upon composing. Later in 1798, he established himself as a music publisher. As a publisher, he was instrumental in bringing Beethoven's music to the British public, having struck a deal with him to have full publishing rights to all of his music in England. Clementi also began manufacturing pianos and his skill as an inventor and mechanic resulted in innovations that have become standard on modern instruments. In 1813, Clementi along with other prominent musicians in England founded the Philharmonic Society of London, which in 1912 became the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Though he remained primarily in London, Clementi traveled to the European continent in 1816 to promote his new works, and again in 1826 to oversee the simultaneous publication of his famous Gradus ad Parnassum in Paris, London and Leipzig. In 1830, he moved outside Lichfield, Staffordshire and on March 10, 1832 passed away after a short illness.

Clementi was regarded as one of the foremost virtuosos of his day and credited with being the first to compose works taking advantage of the capabilities of the pianoforte. His compositions were highly praised, particularly by Beethoven, who considered them the finest examples of writing for the piano. Carl Czerny also held them in high regard and used them in his instruction of Franz Liszt. Though his reputation hinges mostly on the pedagogic uses of his piano music, in recent years his other works, including symphonies, have begun to receive a more favorable reputation.


Composer Title Date Action
Muzio Clementi Sonata in B-flat Major, Op.24 No.2 03/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
Muzio Clementi Sonatine op. 36:3:1 03/21/2011 Play Add to playlist
Muzio Clementi Sonatine op. 36:1:1 03/21/2011 Play Add to playlist
Muzio Clementi Toccata 09/30/2011 Play Add to playlist