This disc is a delight.
I will not discuss the square piano as the notes with the CD do this admirably. What I want to do is recommend Clementi as a composer and give further indication, although this is unnecessary, of the unequalled stature of Peter Katin both as a pianist and musician. Muzio Clementi was born in Rome in 1752; he moved to London in 1774 and died in Evesham in 1832. He promoted Mozart only to be repaid by Mozart’s undeserved dislike of him … which may put a different light on the Mozart – Salieri story. Clementi was a sensational pianist and a deservedly respected teacher. Among his pupils were Field, Moscheles, Kalkbrenner and Cramer. He composed symphonies, a piano concerto, about a hundred piano sonatas which were greatly admired by Beethoven and that, in itself, is some accolade! He was probably one of the first composers to write what might be described as ‘educational’ music with his volume of a hundred studies Gradus ad Parnassum. Debussy was to parody this in his first piece in Children’s Corner. Interested in every aspect of music, Clementi went into the business of making pianos with the London firm Clementi & Company which, in 1832, became Collard & Collard.
The music has charm, elegance and wit … and, thankfully, they are neither weakly delicate nor affected. They are strong but not demonstrative; they do not dream or linger or become tedious. The thematic material is always purposeful and never banal … in fact, it is often memorable. The pieces have a wonderful sense of continuity; the music never gets bogged down. And I am convinced that Peter Katin’s insight into the sonatas and his understanding of the music realises these qualities. Other pianists might play these works with that thistledown prissiness and baroquish lingering affection. As Claudio Arrau once said, “We observe rests in the music but we do not turn them into cracks.”
The F sharp minor Sonata is enchanting. Music to fall in love with. It has a lyricism far ahead of its time and a melodic invention that is second to none. The slow movement unfolds as a telling lament and the finale takes a great amount of skill to execute containing fiendishly difficult passages in thirds. It is really a splendid piece. Pianists should take it up without delay and be thankful to Peter Katin for his pioneering work in bringing this, and other Clementi sonatas, to our attention!
The B flat Sonata was probably known by Mozart as he seems to quote from this sonata in his overture The Magic Flute. Is this plagiarism by Mozart? Incidently the G minor Sonata sounds like Beethoven’s Eroica theme. Perhaps Mozart in his unmerited dislike for Clementi borrowed his theme as a sub conscious desire to equate himself with the older composer. Peter Katin’s finger work is faultless throughout and the opening movement of the B flat Sonata highlights this. In the andante he is successful in bringing out the music’s attractiveness which is captivating. The finale is highly entertaining and the exciting bass line is imaginatively captured.
The G minor Sonata is not as well-written. The first movement seem to be understated with a series of scalic passages and a very pleasant melody that is constantly repeated. The andante is thoughtful and serious and what a wonderful interpretation Peter Katin gives it. This is the great difference between his playing and that of others. We have many fine pianists jetting all over the world playing with sure techniques and confident panache winning praise and, yet, while they are splendid executants some may lack the capacity to understand all the music’s secrets, which only time surrenders, and therefore they can fail to reveal the music’s hidden qualities. Peter Katin’s playing has not been universally admired for 50 years without good reason.
The D major Sonata is another example of happy, bright music and while the music of the final rondo might be slender, Peter Katin captures its amusing quality.
The last sonata on this disc is the F minor and it is the most profound, reminding me of late Beethoven. It is dark music. The poignancy of the slow movement is obvious and the finale teems with activity.
To describe Peter Katin’s performances would necessitate a host of superlatives.
Performances * * * * *Recording * * * *
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