Naxos has released a lot of Clementi piano sonatas, with a variety of performers. This latest release features Soyeon Kate Lee, who delivers some delightful performances. Clementi’s music pushed the limits of the then-developing fortepiano. But on a modern instrument, they can sound a little constrained and reserved.
Lee has a feathery touch that makes her hands seem to just glide across the keyboard with crystalline precision. She’s also sparing in her use of the pedal, which keeps the music sounding clean and transparent. Clementi’s music benefits from what I heard as good-natured, spirited performances.
The works themselves span almost two decades. Four of the sonatas come from Clementi’s Op. 1 publication of 1771. These are simple, two-movement works. Lee turns these modest works into charming miniatures.
The Sonata in F major, Op. 24, No. 1 was written over a decade later. The range of the pianoforte had expanded, and the action becomes more robust. Lee performs with authority, letting the strong dramatic contrasts set the tone.
Even more involved in the 1791 Sonata in F major, Op. 26. This sonata was published around the same time as Haydn’s and Mozart’s late sonatas — and just four years before Beethoven’s first set. The texture is much thicker, and what I would call more pianistic. The early sonatas were written for keyboard and lay equally well on a harpsichord or fortepiano. This work is strictly for the latter.
Muzio Clementi: Keyboard Sonatas
Op. 1, No. 6; Op. 1a – Nos. 1, 4 and 5; Op. 13, No. 4; Op. 24, No. 1; Op. 26
Soyeon Kate Lee, piano