I love Naxos’ passion for completeness. It matches my own compulsion. I have no doubt that they will eventually have every piano work by Muzio Clementi available. And probably all of his orchestral works, concertos, and other pieces besides.
This release features works from three points in Clementi’s career. The Op. 23 sonatas were published in 1790. Clementi was in England, running a pianoforte company. These sonatas are similar in structure to those of Haydn. They’re well-balanced, with a transparent texture.
The first movement of the Op. 34, No. 1 sonata was originally part of a piano concerto. this 1795 work has a bigger sound than the Opus 23 sonatas. The texture’s a little thicker, and the musical construction a little more complex.
By 1821 styles had changed dramatically, and Clementi did his best to keep up. The Op. 48 variations on “Au clair de la lune” has a good deal of early Romantic expressiveness. The harmonies are a little more complex, with more technical challenges. Still, there’s no mistaking this for a work of Schubert. There’s still a lightness to it.
Pianist Juan Carlos Rodríguez wisely adjusts his playing to fit the work. He performs the Op. 23 sonatas with a light touch that gives these work an air of refined elegance. Rodríguez is more forceful with the Op. 34 sonata, bringing out the dynamic contrasts that’s especially effective in the transcribed first movement.
For the Fantasia, Rodríguez’s delivers a more nuanced performance. His phrasing is more subtle, separating the work stylistically from the Op. 23 sonatas written three decades before.
Well performed, and well-recorded. Even if you’re not a completist, there’s much to enjoy here.
Muzio Clementi: Keyboard Sonatas
Op. 23, Nos. 1-3; Op. 34, No.1
Juan Carlos Rodríguez, piano