From the All Music Guide

Muzio Clementi ’s sonatas are a peculiar animal. He was a composer whose works straddled the Classical and Romantic periods both temporally and stylistically. Therefore, pianists who play his sonatas have a wide range of choices when making decisions about articulation, dynamics, and other details that will determine how the music sounds and feels, not to mention choosing between harpsichord , fortepiano , or modern piano for an instrument. This Naxos release includes three sonatas, which date from 1795 to 1821, performed by Tanya Bannister on a modern piano. She gives all of them more of a Classical interpretation, using a soft, graceful touch and shying away from drama for drama’s sake. The first sonata, in G minor, Op. 34, No. 2 , is one that was a favorite of Vladimir Horowitz . Bannister is much less forceful in its opening movement than Horowitz , but that doesn’t mean it lacks purpose. Its middle movement sounds like a languid gavotte , while that of the A major, Op. 50, No. 1 , marked Adagio sostenuto e patetico , is quietly elegaic. She seems to approach the emotion of these works with a more easy-going, instinctively unruffled demeanor, while still giving them plenty of interest and subtle shaping in even the smallest of phrases. It could be argued that she is ignoring the ‘con sentimento,’ ‘con anima,’ and ‘patetico’ markings, especially in the Op. 50, No. 1 — one of Clementi ’s last and, stylistically speaking, most Romantic sonatas — but the way she interprets the music isn’t inappropriate. The finales of both that sonata and the E flat major, Op. 41 , are cheerful and allow her to show off her smooth legato technique in scales and ornaments that ripple along pleasantly. There is a certain amount of virtuosic showmanship in these sonatas, but Bannister concentrates more on the big picture and the overall impression of each movement. The recording’s sound isn’t too close or deep, which, in a way, adds to the elegance of the performance by not letting the fortissimos and pianissimos become too theatrical. Bannister certainly makes a strong and agreeable case for the more Classical interpretation of Clementi ’s music.

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