Clementi, Muzio


He was the first of the great virtuosos, who were considered distinctively composers for the players on the piano and he has been called, " the Columbus," in the domain of piano-playing and composition and was the father of the school of modern piano technique. Has likewise been called, "the father of the sonata." Born at Rome, He was the son of a silversmith and early showed a taste for music, which highly pleased his father, who was himself an amateur musician of no mean ability. His father induced Buroni, the choirmaster of a Roman church, to instruct his son in music, and he taught the boy singing and thoroughbass. In 1759, Buroni procured lessons for him from the organist Cordicelli and at this time he was being instructed in counterpoint by Carpain and in singing by Santarelh. At the age of nine the boy applied for and obtained the position of organist in a church. At fourteen he had composed several works, among them a mass for four voices and chorus, which was publicly performed and attracted much notice. The turningpoint in his career came, in 1767, when an English gentleman of means, Peter Beckford, induced Clementi's father to allow him to take charge of the boy's education. At the country home of Beckford in Dorsetshire, he studied not only music but the languages and literature as well and soon became an adept at musical composition and so distinguished himself for his other accomplishments that, when he made his appearance in London, he was made much of by the most eminent men and women in social and artistic circles. About 1773 he obtained the position of conductor of the Italian Opera, which he filled for three or four years. He also visited Strasburg, Munich and Vienna, where he met Haydn and Mozart, and his association with these musicians was of the greatest benefit to him. He took part with Mozart in a competition of playing and improvising, which was instituted by the Emperor Joseph II., and on this occasion played his sonata in B flat, the opening of the first movement of which is said to have been made use of later by Mozart in The Magic Flute. Clementi greatly admired the composer, but Mozart was not so generous and often spoke slightingly of Clementi and his work. From 1782 until 1802, except for his concert tours, Clementi spent all of his time in England as conductor, virtuoso and teacher. Meyerbeer was his pupil at one time, and he was also the instructor of John B. Cramer and John Field, who soon took rank among the first pianists in Europe. During Clementi's tour of France he was cordially received by Marie Antoinette and the court and there made the acquaintance of Gluck, who admired him greatly. He also met Viotti. After returning to England, he became a member of a firm of piano makers, which for many years bore his name and is now known as Collard's, and ultimately, in spite of losses by fire, he made a large fortune. He spent a great deal of time and money on improving the piano, and after his fortune was made, spent all his leisure moments composing. He wrote symphonies for the Philharmonic Society; many piano pieces; and completed a series of one hundred studies entitled Gradus ad Parnassum, upon which to this day the art of solid piano-playing rests. He likewise left upward of one hundred sonatas, fugues, variations and waltzes. His works are declared by musicians to be indispensable to pianists and must always remain so, although they are noted more for their technical excellence than for their musical feeling. Beethoven is declared to have been deeply indebted to dementi and to have esteemed his works as highly conducive to good piano-playing. Clementi was married three times. He lived to be eighty and was honored at his death by a public funeral, when his remains were placed in Westminster Abbey.