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Muzio Clementi: "Un ciarlattano come tutti gli italiani" (W.A.Mozart)

Muzio Clementi: “A Quack like all Italians” (W. A. Mozart)

The historic challenge between Clementi and Mozart at the court of Joseph II, told through original documents and film footage. During the evening rare pieces such as the Toccata and some Cadenze nello stile di. As well as some Sonatas will be performed.



Birth of Piano Competitions


Two pianists at court




On  24 December 1781 the emperor Joseph II invited at court Muzio Clementi who had recently arrived in Vienna: when accepting the invitation Clementi did not know that that evening another pianist would be  present and both of them would have to play to entertain the emperor’s guests, among whom the Grand Duchess (future tsarina and Paisiello’s student) and the Grand Duke of Russia Paul (future tsar Paul I): Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


Clementi: «After a few days in Vienna I was invited by the emperor to play the piano for him. As soon as I entered the music room I found a man who, due to his elegance I thought was the emperor’s camerlinge; however, when I started to talk with him he immediately went on to speak of musical issues and we immediately realized we were colleaugues  and introduced ourselves in a very friendly manner as Mozart and Clementi”.


Mozart: ”At table, the other day, the Emperor praised me with the words: C’est un talent, décidé” and said that the day before yesterday, 24 December, I had played at court. Another pianist, an Italian called Clementi, arrived here. He too had been invited at court.”


                                                                         The Challenge




Mozart: «The Emperor decided that he would have to play first. The Holy Catholic Church!, he said, because Clementi is from Rome. He started by preluding and then he performed a Sonata. Then the Emperor said to me: “allons, fuoco”.I too preluded and then played some variations; the Grand Duchess came up with some sonatas by Paisiello  (unfortunately copied by himself) of which I had to play the Allegri while Clementi played the Rondò.We then chose a theme among the latter and developed it on two pianos. The funny thing was that though I had chosen Countess Thun’s piano I played it only when I was alone; the other instrument was out of tune and three keys were unusable – but so strong was the Emperor’s desire to hear me play that he said “It doesn’t matter”, well aware as he was of my ability and my  musical knowledge and wanting to show special courtesy towards a foreigner.



The winner




There is no proof of the result of the competition, but it seems that the prize of 100 ducats was divided between Mozart on behalf of the Emperor (see above) and Clementi on behalf of the Grand Duchess.


Mozart: ” Yesterday I received 50 ducats for having played at court the day before yesterday and I must say that I really needed them”.


The impressions of the two “rivals”




Clementi: «Until today I had never heard anyone play in such an intelligent and graceful manner. I was highly impressed by the adagio and many of the variations improvised by him and chosen by the Emperor which we had to vary in turn while the other one played the accompaniment”.


Mozart: “ Clementi is a good clavicembalist and with this there is no more to say. He plays well with his right hand, his strong point are the passages in thirds. For the rest he has no sentiment or taste, - in a word he is simply a “mechanicus”.


”And after a few months: “Hypothesizing that sixths and octaves could be played at the highest speed ( and no one can, not even Clementi)Facendo l’ipotesi che si possano suonare seste e ottave alla massima velocità (il che nessuno può fare, nemmeno Clementi) the result would be a very confused effect and nothing else. Clementi is a quack like all Italians. He writes Presto on a Sonata or even Prestissimo and Alla breve  and plays  Allegro in four movements. I’m sure of this because I heard him do it”




The programme




Muzio Clementi (1752 - 1832)                    -  Sonata in G minor op. 7 n. 3


Allegro con spirito


Cantabile e lento





The Sonata was composed in Vienna after the “challenge”




Toccata in B flat






… he writes Prestissimo and Alla breve and plays Allegro in four movements. I know for sure because I heard him do it. Mozart




Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816)                      -   Sonata V in fa maggiore 






Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756 - 1791)  -   Variations in F major on a march by  Grétry KV 352