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Clementi: Sonatas, Op. 1 & Op. 1A Carlo Alberto Bacchi

Clementi: Sonatas, Op. 1 & Op. 1A Carlo Alberto Bacchi

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While Clementi’s sparkling music has been recorded by many celebrated pianists such as Arturo Benedetti MIchelangeli, few of them have paid much attention to the composer’s first published collection. This new recording by Carlo Alberto Bacchi is all the more welcome for being informed by his study of the composer’s complete oeuvre as part of the ‘Clementi Project’ which sees him performing many of the sonatas in concert as well as recording them for Piano Classics.

The inscription on Clementi’s tomb in Westminster Abbey commemorates him as ‘the father of the piano’. Clementi above all was responsible for devising a modern technique, of the kind still recognisable today, which would serve pianists on the larger instruments being manufactured in the early years of the 19th century. This technique is differentiated from harpsichord technique, and trained not just through lessons but through pianistic ‘methods’ and publications such as these sets of sonatas, which are arranged in order of progressive difficulty in order to introduced students to technical challenges step by step. Like Mozart, Clementi also manifested his musical talents at a very early age: at the age of 7, he was already studying organ, singing and counterpoint; he wrote a mass at the age of 11 and an oratorio at the age of 12.

The English nobleman and eccentric Sir Peter Beckford effectively bought the young Clementi on a seven-year contract and kept him at his West Country pile. When the contract with Beckford expired in 1774, Clementi moved to London and took off on a career that brought him fame across Europe – as a touring virtuoso, a teacher, publisher – and even sometimes composer. The six Op.1 sonatas were published in 1771, during Clementi’s period in service to Beckford. Although he was not yet 20 and almost completely self-taught, they show his mastery of material and his irrepressible invention. All the sonatas have a simple, playful and light-hearted character, and a two-movement form. The five Sonatas of Opus 1a, on the other hand, date from a decade later, even after the Op.6 Sonatas. They were published in Paris around 1781, and here we sense the stirrings of Clementi as ‘father of the piano’ in the cascades and doublings and expanded imagination.

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