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Muzio Clementi




“[Hominick's] performances are skillful and direct, and when Hominick engages with one of Celementi’s more ambitious works, such as the Sonata quasi concerto, his playing becomes expansive... [He has] a smooth legato and supple phrasing...”
Huntley Dent, Fanfare [January/February 2015]
“His interpretations are sensitive [and] stylistically aware...”
Jed Distler, Gramophone [August 2014]
“Canadian pianist Hominick dares to venture into territory explored by such notables as Vladimir Horowitz and Howard Shelley. With his impressive credentials as a student of virtuosos Jerome Rose and Earl Wild one would expect technical abilities of an extraordinary nature. He certainly has them. He also has the musicality to bring off these imaginative works. While there are plenty of opportunities for speedy shenanigans, he keeps such behavior in check... Hominick clearly loves and respects his Clementi... The sonatas are well chosen for their quality and variety... Sound and notes are very good.”
Becker, American Record Guide [July/August 2014]
“[The opening few bars...from the early Sonata in G minor Op7/3] show Ian Hominick as an empathetic player”.
Phillip R. Buttall, MusicWeb International [July 2014]
“[ * * * ½ ] I like Hominick’s way with the music, always considered and gracious in terms of line and emotional curve... he knows the music very well... one album of [Clementi Sonatas] might be enough for most people unless you really develop a need for more Clementi—and he is worthwhile, no mistake—and this could be that album.”
Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition [April 2014]
“recordings of [Clementi's] piano works are scarce. This is why we welcome MSR's recording of five sonatas by Canadian pianist Ian Hominick. [He]gives a suitable account of the flurry of notes, tossing off the challenging flourishes in the rapid passages. He is technically brilliant and there is a lot of energy in his playing... Overall, a quite pleasurable recording that will delight devotees of this musical genre, as well as those who enjoy treading off the beaten path.”
Christian Dalzon, ConcertoNet [April 2014]
“...an appealing Steinway... Hominick's down-to-earth approach...is idiomatic...”
Benjamin Ivry, International Record Collector [March/April 2014]
“[Clementi] is noticeably more complicated than, say, Mozart’s, requiring an artist like Ian Hominick to be continually alert for the changes. It is also a matter of taste, which Hominick possesses to a high degree. Here are trills for expressive purpose, not mere show; radiant keyboard color that is never gaudy, and delicate expressions of pathos that never descend to bathos.”
Phil Muse, Audio Society of Atlanta [January 2014]
To lay out the timeline of the Classical era in Western music – roughly 1750 to 1830 – the Big Three names have their inevitable places, starting with Josef Haydn, the eldest, creator of symphonies, chamber music, oratorios, and so much else. The era reached its zenith with the revolutionary innovations of Ludwig van Beethoven, with the much briefer career of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart arcing on its own brilliant trajectory, like a comet illuminating the night sky over Vienna. The automatic citation of Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven, outlining the principles and creating the masterworks of the Viennese Classical period, covers a great deal of territory but leaves out a few other important figures. One of these is Muzio Clementi, or to give him his full name, Mutius Philippus Vincentius Franciscus Xaverius Clementi, who lived from 1752 to 1832, 80 amazingly productive and colorful years, as a London-based composer, keyboard virtuoso, piano teacher, music publisher, and instrument-builder. If Haydn is the father of the string quartet and the symphony, Clementi has with some justification been called the father of the piano.

A child prodigy like most major musicians, Clementi started on the organ, being hired at age 13 as organist of a church in his native Rome. Shortly after, he was adopted by – or perhaps indentured to – a wealthy Englishman who took him to his home in the county of Dorset. In England, where he would spend most of his life, Clementi switched over to the harpsichord and eventually to the newer instrument, the piano. In the 18th century, the early forms of this instrument were what we now call  the fortepiano, the name derived from two Italian terms for musical dynamics: forte means loud, and piano means soft. That indicates the tremendous advantage the new instrument had over the harpsichord: it could shade easily from softer to louder dynamics, and greatly expanded
the possibilities for musical expressiveness.

After his Dorset sojourn Clementi migrated to London, where he published some of his first sonatas and performed at a variety of concerts, embarking on a European tour in 1780, having already established a firm reputation. He is supposed to have performed during that year in Paris for Queen Marie Antoinette, but he certainly performed in Vienna in 1781, at an event staged by the Austrian emperor, Joseph II (Marie Antoinette’s brother). This was the occasion for his encounter and competition with Mozart. What the invited audience of aristocrats thought of the performance we don’t know, but each composer summed up the other later on. Mozart famously said: “Clementi plays well, as far as execution with the right hand goes. His greatest strength lies in his passages in 3rds. Apart from that, he has not a kreuzer’s worth of taste or feeling – in short he is a mere mechanicus.” Clementi, on the other hand, said: “Until then I had never heard anyone play with such spirit and grace.”

Mozart was notoriously dismissive of the other musicians of his time – except for Haydn – so we can perhaps discount his sneer at Clementi’s virtuosity. Listening to the five sonatas Ian Hominick has chosen for this CD will reveal that “the mechanicus” valued melody, tone color, drama, and pathos fully as much as virtuosic display.

Returning to London, Clementi expanded his multi-sided career, starting endeavors in piano manufacture and music publishing while continuing to perform and compose. He also acquired a number of students, notably John Field (1782-1837), whose nocturnes and other piano works would have a strong influence on Chopin. The teacher’s own keyboard music, meanwhile, was having a strong influence on Beethoven, who admired Clementi and recommended his works to his own students.

Clementi would visit Europe several more times, venturing as far as Russia and re-visiting Italy, partly as a performer, but also as an agent for his publishing and manufacturing ventures. He engaged in one unsuccessful elopement (the young lady’s father intervened) and two marriages. In London he became a founding director of the Philharmonic Society in 1813, and all the while he was expanding his compositional horizons to include symphonies and concertos as well as solo-keyboard music. His orchestral music achieved relatively little success compared to the piano works, which included An Introduction to the Art of Playing on the Piano Forte and the Gradus Ad Parnassum. This work, in three volumes, encompassed many works from his early to his later years and became a teaching staple. Clementi died not long after retiring as head of his piano company and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where his funeral drew a huge crowd to pay tribute to his achievements.

Leon Plantinga, a musicologist who taught at Yale University for many years, is an expert on Clementi and his music. He has said: “Clementi’s influence on following generations of pianists and piano composers is hard to overestimate. Beethoven’s earlier keyboard writing seems unmistakably indebted to his music of the 1780s and 1790s. Clementi was the principal teacher of several leading pianists of the 1820 and 1830s....Thus in several ways he impressed his stamp on piano playing and writing from about 1790 until far into the 19th century. And increasing numbers of modern editions and recordings of his works have made [today’s] musicians and audiences aware once more of his virtues as a composer.”

Clementi’s legacy was passed on to future generations via several routes. A leading member of what has been called the London Piano School, he taught another member of that school, Johann Baptist Cramer, for just one year, 1783, but the influence was profound. Cramer (1771-1858) became one of the most admired pianists of his day, and his Studio per il Pianoforte became a teaching tool almost as indispensable as Clementi’s own didactic works. Also influenced by Clementi’s style and works was the Bohemian-born Ignaz Moscheles, a composer, pianist, and teacher whose long life extended from 1794 to 1870. Moscheles learned the piano from a teacher who reared him exclusively on the works of Bach, Mozart, and Clementi. He knew, and was admired by, both Clementi and Cramer, and his students included Felix Mendelssohn, who became a beloved friend and colleague. Moscheles also taught piano  to Edvard Grieg, Henri Litolff, the virtuosic Sigismund Thalberg, and Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Likewise, the famous piano teacher Carl Czerny (1791-1857) was first taught using the sonatas of Clementi. Czerny’s teaching compositions for aspiring keyboard artists are still current today. Beethoven was one of his teachers, and among his own students was Beethoven’s nephew, who encountered Clementi’s music in his lessons, as did the young Franz Liszt when he came to study with Czerny. Clementi and Czerny met in Vienna in 1810, and the younger man absorbed a great deal from the elder’s methods – thus the style of an 18th-century master has filtered its way into the training of generations of pianists.

Three of this recording’s sonatas are in minor keys; Clementi seems often to have been inspired by the nuanced colors of the minor mode, but what can be heard in all five sonatas, no matter their official keys, is his fondness for alternation between major and minor. Also to be heard throughout is his fondness for passages in octaves, a constant injection of special brilliance into the sonatas’ sound, and a challenge for interpreters, reminding us as we listen to the composer’s extraordinary skills.  [ Andrea Lamoreaux ]

Canadian pianist Ian Hominick studied in the United States under the tutelage of internationally acclaimed pianists Jerome Rose and Earl Wild, and earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Ohio State University in 1991 where he served as assistant to Earl Wild and Tchaikovsky Competition silver-medalist André Laplante. An active soloist, accompanist and adjudicator, Hominick maintains
a busy schedule of concerts and piano master classes across the United States, Canada and Europe. His performances have been broadcast both regionally and nationally on CBC Radio, Radio-Canada and National Public Radio in the United States. Also a dedicated teacher, Hominick joined the piano faculty at the University of Mississippi in 1999. He is Past-President of the Mississippi Music Teachers Association and Director of the Piano Discoveries Summer Camp held in Oxford, Mississippi. Hominick’s premiere solo CD featuring works of the legendary romantic pianist Sigismund Thalberg was released by Titanic Records in 1995 to glowing reviews from the critics. His second recording, Off the Beaten Path, featuring works by several rarely-heard classical and romantic composers was released in 2010 on MSR Classics.

[ www.ianhominick.com ]

MUZIO CLEMENTI (1752-1832)
I. Allegro con spirito
II. Cantabile e lento
III. Presto

I. Allegro agitato
II. Largo e sostenuto
III. Presto

I. Allegro con spirito
II. Adagio e cantabile, con espressione
III. Presto

I. Allegro
II. Andante cantabile
III. Presto

I. Allegro molto moderato
II. Adagio
III. Allegro moderato

MSR Classics
Solo Piano Music