This is an interesting collection of music by Muzio Clementi. In includes three sets of variations, a canon, and a set of style pastiches.
The program opens with Five Variations on a Minuet by Mr. Collick. This six-minute charmer increases the complexity with each variation, but not excessively so. These variations could well be (and were probably intended for) the gifted amateur.
Not so “The Black Joke” with 21 variations. Clementi puts this little tune through some amazing changes. While the melody is always present, the accompanying figures become a virtual catalog of piano technique.
While enjoyable, I found the Musical Characteristics far more entertaining on several levels. Here Clementi presents a little three-part piece in the style of different composers. Each set includes an opening prelude, a cadenza, and a closing prelude.
Clementi ably mimics Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He also includes imitations of Leopold Kozeluch, Austrian Court composer, as well as famed pianist/composers Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel and Johann Baptist Vanhal.
The more familiar you are with these early Classical Era composers, the more fun this music is to listen to. And I think, it also shows the skill of pianist Nicholas Rimmer. Because his performances make Clementi’s stylistic imitations clearer.
Clementi’s Mozart sounds like Mozart, his Haydn like Haydn, and so on. And Rimmer delivers fine performances of Clementi’s other works, too.
Rimmer plays on an original instrument from Clementi’s workshop. That statement comes with several caveats, though. This 1806 piano was restored in the 1970s (the liner notes are vague as to how much was done and how well it was done). Then the instrument was worked on again in 2016.
So yes, it is a pianoforte that Clementi knew, but it might not necessarily sound — or play — exactly as he might expect. To my ears, the sound seemed a little tight. There was very little decay, giving the instrument a dry quality. On the plus side, the action was pleasingly silent.
Muzio Clementi: Piano Music
5 Variations on a Minuet by Mr Collick; The Black Joke; Musical Characteristics
Nicholas Rimmer, fortepiano