WORKS: Piano Sonata in D, Op. 40/3; Piano Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 25/5; Piano Sonata in B flat, Op. 24/2; Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 40/2
PERFORMER: Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66808 DDD
Clementi was born four years before Mozart, lived right through Beethoven’s lifetime and died the year Chopin wrote his First Scherzo. No wonder there are differing views on the interpretation of his larger sonatas. Szokolay plays him like middle-period Haydn, with cheerful quick movements, brisk tempi, clean fingerwork and neat phrasing. Demidenko’s approach is intense and dramatic, like late Beethoven or, sometimes, Chopin.
The two Sonatas common to both discs make an intriguing comparison. In the opening movement of the F sharp minor Sonata, Demidenko adopts a leisurely speed and a Romantic rubato. His emphasis on the echoes between the hands (track 4, from 4:52 mins) is decidedly Chopinesque. Szokolay is brisker and the echoes pass almost unnoticed. Demidenko’s slow delivery forces a sluggish second movement: Szokolay, having played the first movement faster, makes the Lento flow at a convincing speed.
The B flat Sonata calls for an improvised cadenza in the first movement, and both pianists have composed their own. Demidenko’s is rather short (17 seconds) and sounds like Clara Schumann: Szokolay’s, at 51 seconds, is a better length structurally and is more in keeping with the spirit of the Sonata. Neither performance disappoints. It depends on your interpretative view and the sonatas you require. Wadham Sutton