Clementi: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2: Opp. 9, 10, 11 & 12

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Sonatas,
Vol. 2: Opp. 9, 10, 11 & 12
PERFORMER: Howard Shelley (piano)


One of the items Clementi played at his famous contest with Mozart on Christmas Eve 1781 was his Toccata Op. 11 No. 2, which Howard Shelley includes on this second instalment of his Clementi cycle. It’s actually a prestissimo sonata movement, full of the composer’s typical cascading double thirds. But Mozart advised his sister not to try and play any of Clementi’s music up to speed: ‘He writes presto over a sonata,’ he said, ‘or even prestissimo and alla breve – and he plays it allegro in 4/4 time.’ Shelley has no problem meeting Clementi’s demands, and he tosses off all the works here with elegant virtuosity; but not even he can disguise their musical thinness. A few moments stand out – the expressive slow movement of the Sonata Op. 9 No. 2; the turn to the minor in the opening Allegro of Op. 10 No. 1; an affecting G minor episode in the Op. 12 No. 3 finale – but much of the rest is formulaic stuff. Clementi completists will want to have these discs, but others might do better to wait for the more substantial works to come in later volumes of Shelley’s chronological survey. Misha Donat