Beethoven (1770-1827) – Clementi (1752-1832) recital series (2)
Jeremy Eskenazi, piano
Monday 5th March 2007, 6pm
Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Road, London NW1 5HT
L.V. Beethoven: Sonata Op. 79 in G major (pub. 1810)
1. Presto alla tedesca
M. Clementi: Sonata Op. 13 No. 6 in F minor (pub. 1785)
L.V. Beethoven: Bagatelles Op. 126 (pub. 1825)
1. Andante con moto (cantabile e compiacevole) [mp3]
3. Andante (cantabile e grazioso)
5. Quasi allegretto [mp3]
6. Presto – Andante amabile e con moto – Tempo I
M. Clementi: Sonata Op. 40 No. 2 in B minor (pub. 1802)
1. Molto adagio, e sostenuto – Allegro con fuoco, e con espressione [mp3]
2. Largo, mesto e patetico – Allegro – Tempo primo – Presto
In a letter to his friend Count Franz Brunswick, dated 11th May 1807, Beethoven expressed his satisfaction regarding his recent dealings with the composer-publisher Muzio Clementi: ‘I am to get 200 pounds sterling – and, what is more, I shall be able to sell the same works in Germany and France – and, in addition, he has given me further orders – so that by this means I may hope even in my early years to achieve the dignity of a true artist...’1 On Clementi's side, the agreement proved equally (if not more) successful: ‘I think I have made a very good bargain.’2 Indeed, Beethoven would rapidly become the most celebrated composer in Europe. In addition to new commissions (one piano Fantasia and three sonatas), Beethoven sent several of his works to Clementi & Co. in London between 1807 and 1810: his fourth piano concerto op. 58, string quartets op. 59, fourth symphony op. 60, violin concerto op. 61 (with an arrangement as a piano concerto), and ‘Coriolan’ overture op. 62. However, some parcels never arrived, probably due to Napoleonic wars across Europe. Only the quartets, violin concerto (with its piano arrangement), and the commissioned works (op. 77, 78, 79, and 81a) were eventually published by Clementi & Co. in 1810-1811. Additionally, Clementi published, among others, Beethoven's ‘Emperor’ concerto op. 73, violin sonata op. 96, ‘Archduke’ trio op. 97, ‘Choral Fantasy’ op. 80, piano sonatas op. 106, 110, 111, and Bagatelles op. 119.
Beethoven's sonata op. 79, the second of the ‘Clementi commissions’, published in 1810, is best described as a sonatina – a term Beethoven accepted for this piece. The first movement, a dance written ‘in the German style’ (‘alla tedesca’), is lively and full of energy. The ‘cantilena’ in the second movement is strongly reminiscent of Italian song and opera. A ‘cantabile’ style also permeates the third movement, amidst some more ‘rustic’ interjections.
Leaping back a quarter of a century, we find one of the first ground-breaking works written for the piano: Clementi's sonata op. 13 No. 6, in F minor, published in 1785 by the composer's newly–formed London firm. This dramatic sonata points to the future, through its use of dynamic extremes, motivically unified movements, and novel pianistic virtuosity. A considerable amount of Beethoven's op. 2 (1796) is foreshadowed in Clementi's op. 13 No. 6.
At the other end of the Beethoven–Clementi spectrum, the Six Bagatelles op. 126, published in 1825, form Beethoven's last substantial piano work. Here, ‘Bagatelle’ does not translate well as ‘trifle’. The six pieces of the set form a balanced and unified cycle. The mood of the first piece is suggested in the last, which also exhibits various fragments recalling all the other Bagatelles of the set. These fragments ‘vanish’ into a German dance, which eventually leads back to the opening motives of the piece. A ‘sense of return’, both to the opening of No. 6 and to the previous Bagatelles, suggests that op. 126 is, in fact, one large work in six short movements.
Clementi's B minor sonata op. 40 No. 2, published in 1802, is arguably one of his most impressive works, yet it holds a meagre presence in today's concert platform. Already in 1895, the British musicologist John S. Shedlock remarked that Clementi's op. 40 No. 2 had not been performed in London's Popular Concerts for thirty-five years, despite it being formerly recognised by Sir George Macfarren as ‘one of the finest sonatas ever written’.3 The fact that it comprises of only two movements does not undermine its ambition. Both movements are written in the dark key of B minor which, from the very opening bars of the piece, sets the mood for the work's implacable dramatic course.
1 Anderson, Emily, The Letters of Beethoven, vol. 1 (London: Macmillan & Co., 1961), p. 168.
2 Letter to Collard, found in Plantinga, Leon, Clementi: His Life and Music (London: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 197.
3 Shedlock, J.S., The Pianoforte Sonata: Its Origin and Development (London: Methuen & Co., 1895), p. 132 (footnote 2).
Copyright © Jeremy Eskenazi 2008. All rights reserved.