Muzio Clementi, a pianist and manufacturer of pianos, was a skilled composer, but he was not often an inspired one. Some of his music -- his piano sonatas, for instance -- are mostly worth hearing and playing. And of course his works for students are given to young pianists to this day. But his orchestral works, as evidenced in this recording of two of his symphonies, suggest that orchestral writing was not his forte. He probably knew this, too: he worked on his six symphonies for many years and never published them or perhaps even finished them. Indeed they were thought lost until four unfinished manuscripts were found in the Library of Congress. Two of them, the ones heard here, were finished by Italian composer Afredo Casella in the 1930s.
The music clearly derives from the Classical period -- Clementi was born in 1752, four years before Mozart -- but does not have anything like the inventiveness or spirit of Mozart's work. There is far too much oompah, far too much alternation of tonic and dominant with little else to leaven the harmonic landscape. Add to that his uninspired orchestrations. It's not for nothing that Mozart had called Clementi a 'mechanicus'. So much of his music sounds like it could have been composed by a modern-day computer given the task of composing 18th-century music.
Francesco La Vecchia is conductor whom I admire for his recent recordings of Sgambati's First Symphony Giovanni Sgambati: Symphony No. 1 / Overture Cola di Rienzo. But he can do little for these symphonies and, sorry to say, neither can his orchestra, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma, which sounds raw and dispirited much of the time.
Give this one a miss, even if you otherwise like Clementi's music.
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