Tag Archives: piano sonata

My compositions

On the link I will provide here you will see all my completed compositions.  All I am asking is are there any talented musicians out there who could play my music?  It is great hearing it on Sibelius 8 but to hear it live would be incredible.   So if anyone fancies the challenge then thank you very much!


Listening to Tchaikovsky’s symphonic oeuvre I wonder as to why it moves me. What is in it that causes emotional stirrings? Not just Tchaikovsky, it can be any music; is it melody, harmony, timbre, contrast?  I think it is combination of all those factors but especially contrast; sturm and drang maybe.   Storm and stress; roughly translated.  It is all very well having a great melody in a nice major key such as A major but it takes a true craftsperson to switch that to say C minor in a bar or two.  But it has to be done cleverly and usually takes a genius to do it.  Some composers may opt for a quick sudden switch, shock value if you will.  Tchaikovsky does that well.  Others are more subtle like Bruckner.

A pretty melody can IMO get boring after a while so harmony is instigated to liven the music up somewhat.  This can play out well if you have an orchestra at your disposal but writing for the piano and the piano only takes a real skill and where contrast comes into play.  You only have the one timbre to play with and a couple of pedals but such a beautiful instrument in the right hands can yield the most amazing results.   Beethoven’s piano sonatas spring immediately to mind; each one a testament of how to compose for such a contraption.  Chopin and Liszt illuminate the apparatus as if they have sent 1000 volts of electricity through their fingers.  Yet it is simple.

Lightness and darkness, or darkness and light, hope and despair.  Have your pretty melody by all means, but it means nothing if you cannot counter it with a powerful minor key 2nd subject or development section.   This is what attaches this art form to the human psyche.  I suppose music has to be bipolar to have any meaning.   Or maybe it is just me.  I like complicated music, I like a lot going on and seeing how much a composer can get out of an instrument.   Take Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata; the opening theme is so utterly depressing yet grippingly awe-inspiring at the same time.   And musically it is simple, but as the piece progresses it gets more and more complicated without losing its simplicity.   Only Beethoven can do that.   The 2nd subject offers some relief yet soon turns back to misery before it has the chance to develop in a positive fashion.  Was Beethoven conscious of what he was doing?  Did he plan it or did his mind just plop it onto the manuscript without a thought?

Music is littered with countless examples of contrast and they are usually the masterpieces.  But it is only music, is it important?   What is one meant to feel after listening to a masterpiece?  Press replay, maybe and go through it again.  Do that for a lifetime and what have you achieved.   You will have connected with something that is sublime and unforgettable.

‘Minor’ composers Part one.

Hidden behind Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart are a clutch of composers who really deserve more attention.  Most are so obscure and overshadowed by the aforementioned greats, but they really are fine musicians and I want to see if I can improve their profile.

First up is Muzio Clementi (1752-1832).  He influenced Beethoven and composed many beautiful pieces, mainly piano sonatas and the amazing Gradus Ad Parnassum.

 First four studies

My favourite Clementi piano sonata

The Op.50 and Op.40 sets are incredibly underrated sonatas and deserve more attention.

Next was a pupil and friend of Beethoven, Ferdinand Ries. His set of eight symphonies are a testament to finding a voice of his own which was difficult considering the grandness of Beethoven.

Symphony No.5

Ries also wrote many piano sonatas and piano concertos.

Mehul was a Fench composer that I have only recently discovered and what a gem his music is. The first movement of his first symphony in G minor pushes the limitations of the classical period to its zenith. The coda is particularly impressive.

Symphony No.1

Hummel is probably one of the better known ‘minor’ composers not to write a symphony. Yet he makes up for this in his two piano concertos (amongst others that are hard to come by). With a little more guile he could have ben on par with Schubert. He also composed nine piano sonatas that are worthy of their place in history especially the No.5 in F Sharp Minor.

Piano Sonata No.5

The bulk of Czerny’s output was mainly pedagogical, but he also composed several symphonies of which only four seem to have been recorded. My personal favourite in his first in C Minor. Vastly underrated.

Symphony No.1

In part II I will look at such gems as Dussek, Kozeluch and Kuhlua.

Muzio Clementi 1752-1832

Composer 1752-1832
Composer 1752-1832

Any person who has ever had formal piano lessons will surely have come across Mr Clementi, and his Op 36 sonatinas.  They are mechanical pedagogical pieces that are very pleasant and useful in developing a budding talent.  Yet that is just a tiny part of Clementi’s oeuvre.  If you can find the sheet music beyond (well use IMSLP) Op 36 you will find a treasure chest of masterful, superbly crafted piano music that will not only surprise but make you wonder.   Make you wonder why this music has been historically mothballed.  It seems almost impossible to access Clementi’s music beyond IMSLP (if you wanted to buy bound copies of all his sonatas), although Amazon and Spotify have a fairly comprehensive collection of recordings mainly by pianist Pietro Spada.  Spada opens Clementi up and shows very clearly that Clementi’s music stood on the boundary of the classical and romantic periods.

Clementi was slightly eclipsed by giants like Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn yet, I personally feel, his music is on par with the latter two and some of former’s early piano sonata repertoire.   Of course Beethoven went off in a direction that no mortal could match.  I will at this point admit that a few of Clementi’s works (mainly the sonatinas) are a touch twee and rigid but there is a selection of his sonatas that puts him at the top of the minor composer’s pile (although I will argue he is not a minor composer, but I will use that term for now).  The Op 40, 46, 47 and 50 collection of nine sonatas are all masterpieces that really should get more attention.   If I could compare him to such contemporaries as Dussek, Kalkbrenner and Hummel then he ever so slightly pushes the boundaries of originality and breadth.  While Hummel composed some worthy sonatas ,No 4 and 5, and the fantasy in E flat major, a lot of his work is lacklustre and contrived.  I point towards Clementi’s Op 47 sonatas, or capriccios.  This is No. 1 in E minor.  It has a very long introduction, one of the longest I have ever come across.  Listening to the first movement you can see music paving a way towards Schumann, Chopin and Liszt.  Whether this music ever did influence such composers is not clear although it is well documented that Beethoven had a fondness for Clementi’s music.

Clementi’s style is unique in that he explores, almost mathematically, the vast variety of motifs that are possible to compose.  Each sonata has a little nugget that gets bent and twisted throughout the movement.  This is done before Beethoven and it seems that Clementi influenced him in the use of introductions to works which can be long (a mentioned above) or just a few bars.  These mini preludes set the tone and act as a warm up; Clementi normally includes some hemidemisemi quaver (32nd notes) glissando to ready the performer’s suppleness.   He uses the full toolbox of sonata form artillery that works superbly  on all occasions.   In fact I find it hard to find a weak sonata produced by Muzio. They are melodious yet modulated in a heart beat making the piece strecthed and pulled.

Personally my favourite sonata is the Op 50, No. 2 in D minor.  It has, what I believe, to be the most haunting first movement of the classical period.  It is powerful and brooding, there is no room for any major key ditty in F major because is rolls along with some inner strength,some inner meaning.  What is Clementi trying to convey in this sonata?  He is a man we seem to know little about but he must have been something special to produce something akin to a middle period sonata of Beethoven’s.  D minor is an evocative key and all works that adopt it are mysterious and dark (Mozart’s Requiem Mass, Beethoven’s sonata No. 17 and symphony No.9, Bruckner’s symphonies No. 3 and 9).  Clementi has given the world something that is precious but is lost to humanity.  The finale of this sonata is authoritative and the wonderfully mastered entrance to the coda makes my back tremble every time I play or hear it.

I urge people to give Clementi a chance.  He is so close to becoming a grandmaster of the classical romantic bridge-in fact he built the bridge and his back was the bridge to aid the greats like Beethoven.  Of course there was his incredible Gradus ad Parnassum that is a fine collection of studies and shows Clementi’s full breadth of his craft. This is the beautiful beginning to one hundred impressive variations that only a genius could produce.

So there is more to Clementi then just  a few sonatinas.  There is more then I expect we will ever know.