Clementi, Muzio (baptized Mutius Philip–pus Vincentius Franciscus Xaverius)

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Clementi, Muzio (baptized Mutius Philip–pus Vincentius Franciscus Xaverius)

Clementi, Muzio (baptized Mutius Philip–pus Vincentius Franciscus Xaverius), celebrated Italian pianist and composer; b. Rome, Jan. 23, 1752; d. Evesham, Worcestershire, England, March 10, 1832. He began to study music as a child with Antonio Buroni, and at the age of seven commenced studies with the organist Cordicelli. He later studied voice with Giuseppe Santarelli. By Jan. 1766 he was organist of the parish San Lorenzo in Dámaso. About this time Peter Beckford, cousin of the English novelist William Beck–ford, visited Rome. He was struck by dementi’s youthful talent and, with the permission of dementi’s father, took the boy to England. For the next seven years Clementi lived, performed, and studied at his patron’s estate of Stepleton Iwerne in Dorset. During the winter of 1774–75, Clementi settled in London, making his first appearance as a harpsichordist in a benefit concert on April 3, 1775. For the next several years he appears to have spent most of his time as harpsichordist at the King’s Theatre, where he conducted operatic performances. In 1779 his six sonatas, op.2, were publ., which brought him his first public success, both in England and on the Continent. In 1780 he embarked on a tour of the Continent, giving a series of piano concerts in Paris; in 1781 he continued his tour with appearances in Strasbourg, Munich, and Vienna. It was during his stay in Vienna that the famous piano contest with Mozart took place at court before Emperor Joseph II on Dec. 24, 1781. In 1786 several of his syms. were performed in London, only to be eclipsed by the great syms. of Haydn. In 1790 he retired from public performances as a pianist, but he continued to conduct orch. concerts from the keyboard. After 1796 he appears to have withdrawn from all public performances, devoting himself to teaching, collecting large fees. He lost part of his fortune through the bankruptcy of Longman and Bro–derip in 1798; however, with John Longman, he formed a partnership on the ruins of the old company and became highly successful as a music publisher and piano manufacturer; his business acumen was keen, and he remained most successful with subsequent partners during the next three decades. From 1802 to 1810 he traveled extensively on the Continent, pursuing business interests, teaching, composing, and giving private concerts. While in Vienna in 1807, he met Beethoven and arranged to become his major English publisher. He returned to England in 1810, and in 1813 helped organize the Phil. Soc. of London, with which he appeared as a conductor. In 1816–17 he conducted his syms. in Paris, followed by engagements in Frankfurt am Main in 1817–18. He again visited Paris in 1821, and was in Munich in 1821–22. In Jan. 1822 he conducted his works with the Gewandhaus Orch. in Leipzig. Returning to England, he made several more conducting appearances with the Phil. Soc. until 1824; however, his syms. were soon dropped from the repertoire as Beethoven’s masterpieces eclipsed his own efforts. In 1830 he retired from his mercantile ventures, and eventually made his home at Evesham, Worcestershire. As a teacher, Clementi had many distinguished pupils, including Johann Baptist Cramer, John Field, Karl Zeuner, Alexander Klengel, Friedrich Kalkbrenner, and Ludwig Berger.


The Oeuvres complettes de M. C. was pubi, by Breitkopf & Hártel (13 vols., Leipzig, 1803–19; facsimile reprint, 15 vols., N.Y., 1973); however, it is not complete. A. Tyson prepared a Thematic Catalogue of the Works of M. C.(Tutzing, 1967). Clementi composed a number of syms., but many of them have not survived. MSS are now housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the British Library in London. Autographs of 4 syms. survive, but they are not complete. Alfredo Casella reconstructed 2 of the syms., 1 in C major (listing it as No. 1) and 1 in D major (listing it as No. 2). He conducted his version of the C major in Turin on Dec. 13, 1935, and the D major in Rome on Jan. 5, 1936. He publ. them in Milan in 1938. Another D– major sym., now listed as No. 4, survives in the form of a 1st movement in autograph, and sketches for the remaining movements. There is also a G–major sym., known as the Great National Symphony, which survives in autograph movements and fragments. Two early syms., one in B–flat major and the other in D major, op. 18 (1787), have been ed. by Renato Fasano (Milan, 1959–61). His other works include over 100 keyboard sonatas (about half with violin, cello, or flute), 6 duets for 4–Hands, 2 duos for 2 keyboard instruments, fugues, preludes, and exercises, etc. With the exception of the op.36 sonatinas and several of the sonatas, Clementi’s works have been generally neglected; however, in recent years, the publication of new eds. of some of his works, as well as the issuing of recordings, has brought renewed interest in his output. Also of interest is the didactic Introduction to the Art of Playing on the Pianoforte, op.42 (London, 1801; reprint, N.Y., 1973), which includes 50 lessons for the beginner. His major didactic work, the Gradus ad Parnassum (3 vols., Leipzig, 1817–26), contains 100 compositions that attest to his greatness as a teacher of piano.


The Clementi–Archiv of the Netherlands issues the Blatter aus dem C.–Archiv. See also G. Froio, M. C, La sua vita, le sue opere e sua influenza sul progresso dell’arte (Milan, 1876); M. Unger, M. C.s Leben (Langensalza, 1914); G. Paribeni, M. C. nella vita e nell’arte (Milan, 1921); A. Stauch, M. C.s Klavier–Sonaten im Verhaltnis zu den Sonaten von Haydn, Mozart und Beethoven (diss., Univ. of Cologne, 1930); E. di Laura, L’estetica nell’arte didattica di M. C.(Rome, 1934); J. Kohn, The Manuscript Sonatas by M. C. at the Library of Congress: A Comparative Edition with Commentary (diss., Univ. of Iowa, 1967); L. Plantinga, C: His Life and Music (London, 1977); M. Stoelzel, Die Anfange vierhândiger Klavier–musik: Studien zur Satztypik in den Sonaten M. C.s (Frankfurt am Main, 1984).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Clementi, Muzio (baptized Mutius Philip–pus Vincentius Franciscus Xaverius)

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