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Clementi: Early Piano Sonatas Vol 2 / Susan Alexander-Max


Release Date: 06/26/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557695   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Muzio Clementi
Performer:  Susan Alexander-Max
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CLEMENTI Piano Sonatas: in E?, op. 11/1; in B?, op. 1a/2; in g, op. 7/3; in E?, op. 9/3; in A, op. 10/1 Susan Alexander-Max (fp) NAXOS 8.557695 (71: 49)


Considering the pivotal importance of Muzio Clementi—one of the few whose piano playing Read more rivaled that of Mozart; an important publisher, notably of Beethoven; a manufacturer whose pianos were competitive with those of Broadwood on the English market; a teacher whose pupils included J. B. Cramer, Therese Jansen, John Field, and Friedrich Kalkbrenner; and, most significantly, a composer whose active career spanned 55 years and yielded a wealth of piano music which, alongside that of Haydn and Mozart, heralds the instrument’s first “Golden Age”—his relative neglect by pianists, both in performance and on recordings, is difficult to understand. Horowitz, of course, made a fetish of certain pieces, and his recordings of some of them are still in print (cf. op. 25/6 on Sony 93039; op. 33/1 on RCA 62643; op. 34/2 on Membran 222353). More recently, and no doubt more stylishly, Constantino Mastroprimiano has surveyed some 18 sonatas of various periods (Brilliant 93338), including several in common with the CD reviewed here.


However, Susan Alexander-Max makes a compelling claim with her second volume of early Clementi sonatas for Naxos. New York-born and Juilliard-trained, Alexander-Max studied with Ilona Kabos in London and has continued to make her career there. She is a splendid pianist who employs an uncommon variety of touch and articulation, perfectly calibrated for late 18th-century style. Best of all, Alexander-Max is blessed with a vivid imagination, lavishly applied toward a realm of expressive ends. Her choice of a fortepiano by Derek Adlam (a replica of an instrument by Michael Rosenberger, a Viennese builder and disciple of the great Walter) adds a vast dimension of interest to these sonatas from the early 1780s. Part of the excitement of the performances lies in the pleasure of discovery: how good it is to experience these pieces by Clementi, that master of brilliantly resourceful keyboard-writing, on a piano he would have recognized and delighted in.


Savor, for instance, the silvery luminescence of the pathetic exposition in the G-Minor Sonata, op. 7/3 (from 1782) and the contrastingly veiled, mysterious quality produced when the una corda mechanism is engaged in the development and recapitulation. Alexander-Max gives Clementi’s Italianate lyricism its full due in the shapely and lovely cantabile slow movement. In the furious concluding Presto, cascading left hand octaves roar and rumble with ferocious effect. (The same figuration, when played on a modern piano, sounds miniaturized and tame by comparison.)


The E? Sonata, op. 9/3, leaves the stormy pathos of op. 7/3 for sunnier territory. The predominately four-part textures of the first movement, punctuated with brilliant scale passages and tremolos, are beautifully delineated in this performance. Alexander-Max is at pains to demonstrate the slow movement’s unusual contrasts: the principal theme is indicated (in three-quarter time), the first beat forte , the second piano , and the third sforzato . The sonata’s galloping finale, with roulades of triplets encompassing the keyboard, is as exhilarating as it is fun. Throughout, the engineers have done an excellent job of capturing the fortepiano’s special flavor.


One hopes that when she has completed the cycle of early Clementi sonatas, Alexander-Max will go on to record at least some of the later ones, though they will require pianos of larger compass than the Rosenberg replica heard here. Meanwhile, these performances are an important step toward a fuller appreciation of the Italian-born English master who, though seldom achieving the genius characteristic of Mozart and Haydn, proved more influential than either on the future of piano composition and performance. Highly recommended.


FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonatas (5) for Keyboard, Op. 1a: no 2 in B flat major by Muzio Clementi
Performer:  Susan Alexander-Max (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1781; Italy 
Venue:  St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, En 
Length: 10 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Notes: St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, England (09/20/2004 - 09/22/2004) 
2.
Sonatas (3) for Piano, Op. 7: no 3 in G minor by Muzio Clementi
Performer:  Susan Alexander-Max (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, En 
Length: 16 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Notes: St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, England (09/20/2004 - 09/22/2004) 
3.
Sonata for Piano in E flat major, Op. 11 no 1 by Muzio Clementi
Performer:  Susan Alexander-Max (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1792; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, En 
Length: 14 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Notes: St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, England (09/20/2004 - 09/22/2004) 
4.
Sonatas (3) for Piano, Op. 9: no 3 in E flat major by Muzio Clementi
Performer:  Susan Alexander-Max (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1783; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, En 
Length: 16 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Notes: St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, England (09/20/2004 - 09/22/2004) 
5.
Sonatas (3) for Piano, Op. 10: no 1 in A major by Muzio Clementi
Performer:  Susan Alexander-Max (Fortepiano)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1784; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, En 
Length: 13 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: St. Paul's Church, Southgate, London, England (09/20/2004 - 09/22/2004) 

Sound Samples

Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 11: I. Allegro con grazia
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 11: II. Larghetto con espressione
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 11: III. Rondo: Allegro spiritoso
Keyboard Sonata in B flat major, Op. 1, No. 2: I. Allegro moderato
Keyboard Sonata in B flat major, Op. 1, No. 2: II. Andantino grazioso
Keyboard Sonata in B flat major, Op. 1, No. 2: III. Allegro
Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 7, No. 3: I. Allegro con spirito
Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 7, No. 3: II. Cantabile e lento
Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 7, No. 3: III. Presto
Keyboard Sonata in E flat major, Op. 9, No. 3: I. Allegro assai
Keyboard Sonata in E flat major, Op. 9, No. 3: II. Larghetto
Keyboard Sonata in E flat major, Op. 9, No. 3: III. Prestissimo
Keyboard Sonata in A major, Op. 10, No. 1: I. Allegro con spirito
Keyboard Sonata in A major, Op. 10, No. 1: II. Minuetto: Allegretto con moto
Keyboard Sonata in A major, Op. 10, No. 1: III. Prestissimo

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