Updated: Nov 3
Muzio Clementi, Italian pianist and composer who based most of his life in London.
The relationship between London, as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and the artistic and musical life is really strengthening and productive. Along the centuries several great artists and musicians, in particular, has been developing their own careers as composers, performers, publishers, conductors or teachers in London.
One of the few personalities that come together all these facets is the Italian musician Muzio Clementi. He was a really polifacetic men, in the wide and magnificent sense of the word. He was born in the everlasting city Rome, in the middle of XVIII century, in 1752, so, for example, he was only four years younger than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As several great pianists and composers, he travelled to London with the ambition to reach success as a musician. And, definitely, he reached it.
In 1770 (the same year that Ludwig van Beethoven was born), Clementi offered his first piano recital in London with such great success.
The main output of the Italian pianist is developed for the composition of piano works. He composed more than a hundred of piano Sonatas. Maybe one of the most remarkable work is a pedagogical work called Gradus ad Parnassum, that is still studied and played today in a lot of music schools and conservatories in the whole world. He composed also an important number of chamber music pieces, specially Sonatas for violin and piano; and a number of Symphonies for full orchestra that is still knowing and editing for the first time.
Muzio Clementi, surely, is one of the most versatile musicians. He was a famous pianist during his long journey for several countries in Europe, conductor, composer of a huge amount of works, editor and publisher, founder of a manufacturer of pianofortes. He developed a lot of different fields. In his facet as a pianist and performer, we need to remark his tour along Europe, giving several concerts during twenty years from the beginning of the XIX century with remarkable success.
He continued, especially during the second half of his long life working as a teacher and also founded a new music publishing and a manufacturer of pianos.
He was quite really involved in the cultural life of London and was a man with a lot of initiative and enterprising.
As a piano teacher, his contribution to the knowledge and technique of the piano was very relevant. In fact, he is considered one of the fathers of the new modern technique of the pianoforte. Besides the mentioned Gradus ad Parnassum, he taught some of the most virtuoso piano players at this time like Johann Baptist Cramer, John Field and composers like Giacomo Meyerbeer. And the admiration from Beethoven to the work of Clementi is obvious and well known. Although the relationship between Clementi and Mozart was a little bit difficult,specially when they met in Christmas Eve in 1781 in Vienna in the memorable competition in front of Emperor Joseph II. Mozart, after it wrote a famous letter to his father in this way: "Clementi plays well, as far as execution with the right-hand goes. His greatest strength lies in his passages in thirds. Apart from that, he doesn’t have a Kreuzer’s worth of taste or feeling. In short, he is a mere robot." And sometime after that, Mozart "Clementi is a charlatan, like all the Italians. He marks a piece presto but plays only allegro".
However, in the end, Mozart remembered ten years later the first theme of the piano sonata in B flat Major by Clementi, when the Austrian composer borrowed it for the overture of the "Zauberflöte". Then, in 1782, Clementi returned to London, and as far as we know, both of them never met again.
The relation between the Italian composer and London is still remembered today with a blue plaque near 128 Kensington Church Street, in Kensington and Chelsea Borough, and is possible for the tourists to visit the Clementi House at this address, where he lived.
Ps. Learn also all about Ignaz Moscheles.