Clementi: Piano Sonatas Op. 13/4, 6, 6 & 37/1, 2, 3

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Clementi
LABELS: Warner Fonit
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Op. 13/4, 6, 6 & 37/1, 2, 3
PERFORMER: Maria Tipo (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 0927-43315-2 ADD Reissue
Clementi has never quite lived down Mozart’s dismissal of him as a ‘mere mechanicus’, and his prolific output of pedagogical sonatinas and exercises hasn’t exactly helped his cause. Among his large-scale sonatas, however, are a few pieces of striking individuality, such as the F minor Sonata, Op. 13/6, included in this fourth volume of Maria Tipo’s survey of the composer’s keyboard output. Unusually, all three of its movements are in the minor, and its agitated finale, in particular, is a piece of remarkable intensity. Some of the later sonatas tailored to the English taste (Clementi lived in London for the best part of 20 years) are disappointingly conventional, though the finale of the D major Sonata, Op. 37/3, with its modal inflections, has a rustic charm all of its own; and the variations on ‘Au clair de lune’ perpetrate the same joke as Beethoven’s Kakadu Variations for piano trio, whereby an exaggeratedly tragic introduction leads to a tune of nursery-like simplicity.

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Maria Tipo has long since abandoned her career as a concert pianist, and these warm and imaginative performances, recorded some 20 years ago, serve to show us what we’ve been missing. A pity the boxy recording does Tipo’s expressive playing less than justice. Misha Donat