In some respects Muzio Clementi's piano sonatas provide the missing link between Mozart's and Beethoven's, and are far less appreciated than they ought to be. Fortunately, we have Howard Shelley to set things straight as he embarks upon the ambitious and enviable task of recording them all (Clementi wrote nearly 100 sonatas) in chronological order. Although the composer's earlier sonatas don't hint at the harmonic sophistication and expressive range to come in masterworks like the F-sharp minor Op. 25 No. 5 and the Op. 40 group, their exquisitely balanced keyboard deployment, virtuosic wit, and infectious melodic charm never fail to delight the ear.
While Howard Shelley scales down his tone to fortepiano dimensions, hisRead more impeccable taste and sense of style breathe life and meaning into every bar. Trills, runs, and scales add up to the highest sums of musicality and accuracy (the horrifically difficult double notes in the C major Op. 2 No. 2 sonata's whirlwind exposition, for example), while a prodigious range of nuance and color characterize Shelley's tone. Hyperion's sonics are a shade distant and at times opaque, and they don't quite match the depth and presence I usually enjoy from this label's solo piano productions. Nevertheless, Shelley's mastery totally comes across, and you get two well-filled discs for the price of one. A must-have for piano buffs!