Musician is remembered as ‘father of the piano’
|Muzio Clementi, the Italian composer who helped|
found England's Royal Philharmonic Society
He moved to live in England when he was young, where he became a successful composer and pianist and started a music publishing and piano manufacturing business. He also helped to found the Royal Philharmonic Society in London.
Clementi was baptised Mutius Philippus Vincentius Franciscus Xaverius the day after his birth at the Church of San Lorenzo in Damaso in Rome.
His father was a silversmith, who soon recognised Clementi’s musical talent and arranged for him to have lessons from a relative, who was maestro di cappella at St Peter’s Basilica.
By the time he was 13, Clementi had already composed an oratorio and a mass and he became the organist at his parish church, San Lorenzo in Damaso, at the age of 14.
Sir Peter Beckford, a wealthy Englishman, was so impressed with Clementi’s musical talent and his skill with the harpsichord when he visited Rome in 1766 that he offered to take him to England and sponsor his musical education until he was 21.
|The interior of the church of San Lorenzo in Damaso in|
Rome, where Clementi was baptized and was later organist
Mozart used the opening of one of Clementi’s sonatas in the overture for The Magic Flute. Although this was meant as a compliment, Clementi made sure he put it on record that his sonata had been written ten years before Mozart’s opera.
Clementi moved to live in London when he became an adult, playing the piano, composing, conducting and teaching music.
He began publishing music in 1798, taking over a firm in Cheapside, which was then the most prestigious shopping street in London. Ludwig van Beethoven gave him full publishing rights to all his music in England and in later life Beethoven started to compose chamber music specifically for the British market because of his connection with Clementi.
|The house in Kensington Church Street where|
Clementi lived in London
Bartolomeo Cristofori from Padua has been widely credited with creating the first piano as a development of the harpsichord in 1700.
The piano was probably more of a success in England than anywhere else and Clementi carefully studied its features in order to make the best use of the instrument’s capabilities.
Many of his compositions have been lost or are incomplete, but his chief claims to fame are thought to be his piano sonatas and his studies, such as Gradus ad Parnassum - Steps Towards Parnassus - which he composed in 1817.
Clementi started a business manufacturing pianos in London and, as it flourished, he made important improvements to the construction of the instrument, some of which have become standard in the pianos manufactured today.
At a banquet held in his honour in London in 1827, one of the organisers noted in his diary afterwards that Clementi ‘improvised at the piano on a theme by Handel’.
|The tomb of Muzio Clementi can be|
found in Westminster Abbey
Clementi died in Evesham in 1832 at the age of 80. He was buried in Westminster Abbey and on his tombstone inscription he is remembered as ‘father of the piano’.
Clementi had been married three times and had five children.
Among his descendants are the British Colonial administrators, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith and his nephew, Sir Cecil Clementi, Air Vice Marshall Cresswell Clementi of the RAF and a deputy governor of the Bank of England, Sir David Clementi.
The Basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso, the church where Clementi was baptised and also played the organ, is in the southern part of the historic centre of Rome between the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Tiber. It may once have been the site of a pagan temple, but a church was built there in about 380 by Pope Damasus I. This building was demolished in the time of Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned the construction of the Palazzo della Cancelleria in 1489. The new church of San Lorenzo in Damaso, where Clementi would have played the organ, was incorporated into the side of the palace.
|The Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome|
The Palazzo della Cancelleria, the Papal Chancellery, is believed to be the earliest Renaissance palace in Rome. It is a property of the Holy See and has been designated a World Heritage Site. Just to the south of the square named after the palace, Piazza della Cancelleria, is the Campo dè Fiori, the site of a market in Rome for centuries, which has plenty of bars and restaurants and is a popular nightspot when the markets stalls have all been packed away.
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(Picture credits: San Lorenzo interior by antmoose; London house by Simon Harriyott; tombstone by oosoom; Palazzo della Cancelleria by Lalupa)