The recordings of Muzio Clementi's piano sonatas by American historical keyboardist Susan Alexander-Max focus on this minor master's early sonatas, seemingly a narrow topic, but actually a very useful one. Clementi's works were widely published in their own time, and their chronology is often problematical. A program of early Clementi sonatas captures the music the young Beethoven would have heard and helps make clear the nature of Clementi's considerable influence, which is most apparent in the energy and pianism of the Presto finales. These sonatas, in two or three movements, are attractive on their own terms, as well, and unlike Mozart's sonatas of the 1780s they are not really suited to performance on the harpsichord. In Alexander-Max's concise formulation, "They introduce the public to a new virtuosity which was exploring a newly developed instrument in a society that was changing as rapidly." Alexander-Max uses a modern replica of a 1797 Viennese fortepiano by Michael Rosenberger -- a heavy, muscular instrument that outdoes the familiar Walter examples from the same period for sheer power -- and her readings aim toward and succeed in bringing out the variety of textures and accents implicit in Clementi's seemingly innocent melodic lines. Like the other discs in Alexander-Max's ongoing series, this one is strongly recommended for anyone with the slightest interest in the music of the late 18th century, and it is as good a place to start as any other with the music in the air when Beethoven was a student. Alexander-Max's booklet notes are in English only.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonata in C major, Op. 20|
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