Classical Piano

Bach | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Muzio Clementi Piano Masters

While neither of these two men deserve to be called virtuosi in the modern acceptation of the term, it is applicable more to Scarlatti than to Bach. The sons of the latter, especially Friedemainn, 1710-1784, and Philip Emanuel, 1714-1787, continued in the work of developing the piano-technique. While the first named was endowed with higher gifts, the influence of the later was greater.

Haydn and Mozart speak highly of him. Philip Emanuel’s style was serious, it differed largely from that of his father, in so far that he yielded to modernizing influences of his times by developing the lyric element in his compositions as well as in his playing.

After this master we see the art of piano-playing again represented by a German and an Italian, to wit : Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1792, and Muzio Clementi, 1752-1832. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The clavichord and harpsichord were now gradually superseded by the modern piano. The student must, however, not imagine these masters as having played upon such instruments as are now in use. The early pianos were very small, and built so lightly that a man could carry one of them from one side of the room to the other.

wolfgang amadeusmozart

The lower keys were black and the upper white, while the damper-pedal was usually worked with the knee. Mozart, of course, is famous mainly as a composer, but he was also a superior pianist. His style was brilliant, smooth, fluent and distinct even to the smallest notes.

As an improvisator he was unsurpassed. Haydn, Mozart and Clementi like Philip Emanuel Bach before them developed the lyric element in music, in contradistinction to Bach and Scarlatti, who wrote and played in the contrapuntal style.

Muzio Clementi

Clementi had a remarkable technique and he is said to have even surpassed Mozart as a player. While his style, like that of Mozart, was clear and fluent, it was also characterized by fire and much power. He occupies much the same position towards Mozart and Haydn, which Scarlatti occupied by the side of Bach and Handel.

muzio clementi

Clementi lived long in England, where he interested himself in the manufacture of pianos, towards the development of which he did a great deal. While the German pianos had a light touch, admitting of an easy, gentle gliding style of playing, that of the English piano was somewhat heavier and its tone more sonorous.

Clementi was also a great composer and his Sonatas are used to this day. Among his many works there is, however, one that deserves our special attention in connection with this sketch, namely his “Gradus ad Parnassum,” a series of studies in which he laid the foundation for piano-technique. These two masters formed distinctive schools of piano playing.

The Mozart or Vienna school was further developed by Woelfl, Steibelt, Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles, Herz, Kalkbrenner and others. Steibelt, Moscheles and Hummel, especially the latter, are also highly esteemed as composers. Czerny is well-known as the writer of many exercises which are still extensively used. With men like Kalkbrenner, Herz and others the Vienna school degenerated into mere finger show and finally ceased to exist as such.

Muzio Clementi’s piano school: Cramer, Field and Dussek

The Clementi school was carried on by Cramer, Dussek, Field and others. The first has left us an excellent series of studies. Dussek also produced many good works, while Field must be regarded as the originator of the modern Nocturne. His fine compositions of that style are no doubt the germ out of which grew the matchless Nocturnes by Chopin. These players cared more to develop the singing quality of the instrument, than mere velocity.

They also used the pedal more freely than did the players of the Vienna school. With Carl Mayer the Clementi school declined.