Friends and Rivals: Mozart and Clementi

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Friends and Rivals: Mozart and Clementi

£9.99

It is said that there was a rivalry between Mozart and Clementi that lasted for many years. Here, it continues via two works performed by Felicja Blumental of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 “jeune homme” and Clementi’s rare Concerto for Piano in C.

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It is said that there was a rivalry between Mozart and Clementi that lasted for many years. Here, it continues via two works performed by Felicja Blumental of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 “jeune homme” and Clementi’s rare Concerto for Piano in C.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat, “Jeune homme” (K271)

Felicja Blumental – piano
Leopold Hager – conductor
Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg

  • Allegro (10’43)
  • Andantino (11’34)
  • Rondeau: Presto-Minuetto-Presto (11’17)

Muzio Clementi – Concerto for piano in C

Felicja Blumental – piano
Alberto Zedda – conductor
Prague Symphony Orchestra

  • Allegro con spirito (9’41)
  • Adagio e cantabile, con grande espressione (6’41)
  • Presto (6’28)

Total running time (56’24)

 

The first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring? …Beethoven playing his Moonlight Sonata for the first time?

In the absence of time travel, we can only dream of being present at these moments in musical history. It is just such a moment that forms the inspiration for this CD.

On Christmas Eve 1781, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Muzio Clementi took part in a ‘musical playing’ contest in Vienna. Emperor Josef II staged the contest as an entertainment for his guests, the Grand Duke and Duchess of Russia.

The two musicians were called upon to improvise, sight-read and perform selections from their own compositions. The Emperor was unable to decide who was the better performer and so declared the contest a tie.

The event started a rivalry between the two composers that lasted for many years. Shortly after the contest Clementi wrote about Mozart in the most generous terms. For his part, Mozart acknowledged grudgingly Clementi’s technical ability but wrote, “Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians”.

The rivalry was made worse still when Mozart published Die Zauberflöte. The Overture includes a passage, which undeniably had its origins in Clementi’s earlier Piano Sonata in B-Flat Major. From that date on, Clementi made sure that every publication of his Sonata had a note stating that it was written 10 years before Mozart’s opera.

We’re delighted to extend the rivalry here by presenting piano concertos by both composers and performed by Felicja Blumental.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No 9 in E flat major, “Jeune homme”

Written in 1777, when Mozart was just 21, this early composition is astonishing in its maturity, and is easily the peer of his later great ‘Viennese’ concerti. Believed to be dedicated to a visiting French pianist whom Mozart admired (though her existence has been questioned), Mozart took unusual pains in its composition, writing out the whole piano part including varied cadenzas, which he usually played from memory or extemporized. He performed the work publicly several times, and it remains one of his greatest works.

Unconventionally, the piano enters at the start, before letting the orchestra set the elegant and ebullient tone for the first movement. The darkly powerful slow movement was Mozart’s first in a minor key, and a highly original Rondeau third movement interweaves calm and passion, leading to a storm of a finale. It is surely an early indication of the supremacy he would achieve in this form.

Muzio Clementi: Concerto for Piano in C

Originally thought to be adapted from his Sonata Op 33, No 3, scholars now believe it to be the other way around. The work was lost until redicovered in the 1960s. Clementi himself performed the concerto in 1790. Rarely performed now, and inevitably in the shadow of Mozart’s concerti, here is a classic contrast between the intuitive genius and the rigorous intellectual. Mozart dismissed Clementi as a mere ‘mechanic’, but the latter’s contribution should not be undervalued. His tomb proclaims him “Father of the pianoforte”, and his teaching of technique and contribution to the development of the piano were of major importance.

Bold and elaborate, the work seems to bridge the worlds of Mozart and Beethoven, perhaps unsurprisingly. Its vigour would have suited Clementi’s own virtuoso technique, and certainly supports his reputation as a demanding composer. The beautifully crafted lyrical slow movement is in a similar vein to Mozart’s late concerti, and Mozart’s abrasive comments do not do Clementi justice.