Meet Muzio Clementi,
World's First Piano Composer

Muzio Clementi


Birthdate

January 23, 1752

Birthplace

Rome, Italy

Early Years

Muzio Clementi is widely acknowledged as the first composer to write music specifically for the piano. He was not only a piano player, but also a piano builder and music publisher. Born the first of seven children in Rome on January 23, 1752, he was already employed as a church organist by the time he was nine years old.

From ages 14-21, he studied harpsichord under the sponsorship of Sir Peter Beckford, at whose manor Clementi provided musical entertainment in exchange for his education. His first public performance was at the age of 18, as an organist.

Breakthrough

After completing his sponsored education, Clementi moved to London, where he performed as a solo harpsichordist and acted as conductor/keyboardist for the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. In the early 1780’s, his new Opus 2 Sonatas and public performances helped make him so popular that some considered him to be the greatest piano virtuoso in the world. He even performed in a musical duel with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for Emperor Joseph II, who actually declared a tie in the contest, held Christmas Eve, 1781.

Later Years

Clementi remained in England for the rest of his life, teaching, composing, and manufacturing pianos. Click here to see some of Clementi's original pianos.

Major Contributions

In 1807, the same year his piano factory was destroyed by a fire, Clementi obtained full publishing rights to all of Beethoven’s music in England.

In 1810, Clementi stopped performing to focus on composition and piano manufacturing. In 1813, he founded a professional musicians’ group that later became the Royal Philharmonic Society (in 1912).

Clementi composed nearly 110 piano sonatas and a number of symphonies, many of which are somewhat unfinished, since he kept making changes to them over time. Although he was a widely respected teacher, a brilliant “technical” pianist, and a fairly prolific composer, and despite the fact that he was greatly respected by Ludwig van Beethoven, and that one of Clementi’s students would later influence Frederic Chopin, Muzio Clementi remained somewhat overshadowed by his contemporaries, Beethoven and Mozart.

Date of Death

March 10, 1832

Burial Location

Westminster Abbey


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