Shelley Clinches Clementi

Pianist Howard Shelley dances out Clementi's Black Joke Variation’s jig theme with infectious delight

Composer: Clementi
Repertoire: Capriccios and variations
Artists: Howard Shelley (pf)
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Instrumental
Label: Hyperion CDA67850

The Music: The Black Joke Variations date from the start of Clementi’s long life in London, the Capriccios (Op.47) the end. The other works here are scattered unevenly through the intervening years. The typical Clementi style involves fast runs of parallel thirds and broken octaves.

The Performance: Clementi’s wit comes through in the ‘Crushed-note’ Variation, although elsewhere Shelley misses the opportunity for levity. He’s over-serious in the Au Clair de la Lune Variations, for instance, where impishness
is called for. Yet his command is supreme in the flashy chords, springy bass-lines and funky accents of the virtuosic Capriccios
 and though he plays a modern Steinway,
his touch is sensitive enough, especially 
in the bass, to suggest the tone of an
original Broadwood.

The Verdict: Shelley has Clementi’s fingers, if not his stylistic breadth, in this addition to his repertoire of the obscurer classical pianists
– Hummel, Hiller, Herz.

Want More? Demidenko’s Clementi Sonatas (Hyperion Helios CDH 55227) are heavier by comparison but so is the programme.