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Alessandro Marangoni discusses his new Naxos CD of Clementi’s Gradus ad Parnassum

October 27, 2010

Alessandro Marangoni

‘I think that Gradus ad Parnassum is Clementi’s testament and, at the same time, an encyclopedia of all his knowledge and thought. Clementi was a great pianist, one of the greatest virtuosos of his time, but often we regard the opus as a treatise or a collection of technical exercises to make nimble fingers, although in reality this idea is very incomplete: Gradus is in fact primarily an expression of the mature and fully poetic Clementi. The 100 studies that make up the opus are often grouped into suites of 4 or 5 pieces, with a link between them, as if they were movements of a sonata. The first purpose is actually musical composition rather than mere technical expertise.

‘Certainly, the intent of teaching is very important and often conservatories and music schools focus on the technical side, so the studies are hated by the students for their ‘digital’ difficulties. My purpose is to re-evaluate these exercises in terms of musical expression and compositional form, emphasizing those elements.

‘It's amazing how the author of over 100 exercises uses every kind of form and style, including those of early music, Baroque counterpoint, the canon, the fugue, theatrical style (as in the beautiful Scena patetica), all elements which we can find in Beethoven’s Sonatas.

‘Another characteristic of Gradus ad Parnassum is the stylistic variety and invention typical of Clementi’s sonatas (in fact some of the sonatas themselves have relaxed, jokey and characteristic movements). Clementi’s technique would be surpassed only by Chopin and Liszt a few years later: a ‘digital’ revolution in technique (scales, arpeggios, repeated notes, thirds, sixths), but also exploring the expressive ‘colours’ of the piano. Gradus ad Parnassum is the ‘summa’ of Clementi’s knowledge of polyphony, a tradition that has its roots in the ancient Rome of Palestrina.

‘In Italy we usually use selected studies only for technical purposes, during middle school courses: I hope that teachers and students will discover the gold mine of music that is in these wonderful pieces, rich with great expressiveness and musicality.

‘In undertaking this complete recording of the 100 studies, despite an initial concern because of their difficulty and the complexity of the whole work, I discovered a wonderful world and I wish that every pianist could know the riches of Gradus in its entirety. And – why not? – it would be great to hear in concert some of these studies, such as the Suites, which are never played. Step by step, a slow ascent to Mount Parnassus: a musical style, a way of life and shared ethic.’

CLEMENTI Gradus ad Parnassum Vol 1 – Nos 1–24
Alessandro Marangoni, piano

Remembered as the first of the great piano virtuosos, Muzio Clementi condensed his years of composition and performance into the monumental, three-volume Gradus ad Parnassum, a repository of stylistically diverse pieces designed to demonstrate utmost technical mastery of the instrument. Praised for his recordings of Rossini’s piano music for Naxos (8.570590–91, 8.570766 & 8.572315), the award-winning Italian pianist Alessandro Marangoni scales the heights of Clementi’s piano studies with an ease that belies their extraordinary demands, bringing to life their unfailingly engaging qualities. This is the first in a series of four Naxos albums.

CLEMENTI Gradus ad ParnassumVol 2 – Nos. 25–41
Alessandro Marangoni, piano

Currently available for streaming and download only. This recording will be issued on CD in 2011.

Alessandro Marangoni Biography & Discography


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