The composition and playing styles of Muzio Clementi before and after 1781
I begin the introduction by noting that the composer Muzio Clementi is not as well known today as are his contemporaries Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn. Nonetheless, his contributions to the music of his time remain important. The self-educated Clementi came to England from Italy. Although he would lose in a pianoforte competition with Mozart in 1781 (held at the court of Emperor Joseph II), his popularity eclipsed even that of Mozart for a time. Clementi's harpsichord and piano performances would make him the most recognized keyboard player of his day.
Clementi's initial instrument, the harpsichord, has of course enjoyed a long tradition in Western music, dating back to the 16th century. During Clementi's time, the square pianoforte began to catch on in popularity, but Clementi still preferred to play the harpsichord. The square pianoforte has many strong differences when compared to the harpsichord, chief among them being its distinct touch and sound. Because of the development of the English grand pianoforte, Clementi would prefer the English grand pianoforte after 1781. Modern pianists must make significant adjustments in their playing in order to achieve an appropriate performance of one of Clementi's compositions.
In this paper I first address Clementi's contest with Mozart in 1781, followed by chapters in which I examine his preferred instruments prior to and after 1781 (chapters 2 and 4). In chapter 3, I consider Clementi's virtuoso compositional style before 1781; in chapter 5, I examine his new compositional style, developed after his “loss” of the contest to Mozart. In addition, I address representative performance practice issues in these chapters.