CLEMENTI Piano Concerto No 3. Symphonies Nos 1 & 2
The single extant piano concerto of Clementi is this C major Concerto, and it survives only in a copy in the hand of Johann Schenk, one of Beethoven’s teachers. Clementi converted it into a more saleable solo sonata, his Op 33 No 3 (not No 1 as Naxos’s booklet has it), which you can hear on a superb recording by Howard Shelley (Vol 4 of the complete Clementi sonatas – Hyperion, 12/09) which captures not only the ideal piano sound for these works but also and more importantly the spirit of the piece.
The Italian players are placed in the audibly empty Auditorium di Via Conciliazione, Rome, as though for a concert to which no one has turned up. This may have indeed been the case, judging from the performance. Clementi’s first-movement Allegro con spirito is more allegro con malvolentieri, which does nothing for a work that lacks the thematic attractions of other C major concertos such as K467 and K503 (composed about a decade earlier) or Beethoven’s Op 15. The attractive rondo goes some way to making amends.
In a second and far better acoustic, Rome’s OSR Studio, the Rome SO present two brief (roughly 16'30") four-movement symphonies from 1787. With Haydn’s and Mozart’s symphonies widely disseminated by then, it seems strange that Clementi, hailed as a ‘transitional composer’, should have reverted to the earlier Mannheim style, leaving us with eight short movements devoid of any striking originality or memorable ideas. Of course it is always interesting to know what was going on in the foothills of Olympus but Clementi the symphonist on this showing is thin gruel indeed.