CLEMENTI Capriccios & Variations
This enticing seventh (and final) volume of Clementi’s works for solo piano is a notable achievement on several levels. The same team of Howard Shelley, Ben and Annabel Connellan (respectively engineer and producer), venue (all except one at St Silas the Martyr, London) and booklet writer (Clementi scholar Leon Plantinga) have combined to produce no fewer than 14 CDs of remarkably uniform quality, insight and interest in a mere four years.
The five Capriccios are quite fascinating, the earliest (1786‑87) a set of brilliant variations, the two of Op 34 (1795) leaving “the impression of impassioned, whimsical improvisations” (Plantinga), while the two of Op 47, composed when Clementi was 75, are substantial three-movement works (19'02" and 18'21" apiece), boldly experimental with passages of prescient Chopin and Liszt, and the first Adagio of the C major Capriccio bearing a 5/4 time signature, possibly its first appearance in music.
If not all the music on disc 2 is quite as intriguing, there is nothing that disappoints. There’s La chasse (really a little three-movement sonata with hunting themes), the 12 Monferrinas, all two pages long and technically about Grade 5‑6, some lively variations on “Au clair de la lune” and “Batti batti” (from Don Giovanni), and more besides. There are over 152 minutes of music on the present discs, much of it demanding. How Shelley manages to absorb it all and then convince you that he has been playing it all his life with his characteristic elegance and dexterity is a gift given to few. Such an eminent composer deserves no less.