Clementi and the woman at the piano

Virtuosity and the market for music in eighteenth-century London

by Erin Helyard

Erin Helyard takes as his historical point of departure the radical appearance in 1779 of technically difficult keyboard music in a set of six sonatas (Op. 2) by Muzio Clementi. The difficult passages contained in this opus are unique amongst keyboard music published for a market that was understood at the time to consist almost entirely of female amateur keyboardists. Previously actively discouraged from practicing or improving their skills due to the restrictive ideologies in place, Clementi's music increasingly affords female pianists a new kind of musical expression. Clementi and the woman at the piano: Virtuosity and the market for music in eighteenth-century London maps the social, musical, and gendered implications of technically difficult music and helps to underline important changes in Enlightenment culture and keyboard practice. Clementi's activities initiated the now familiar and modern concepts of repetitive musical practice, the work-concept, virtuosity itself, and the division between amateur and professional. Additionally, Clementi promotes a radical new mode of expression for female pianists that is at first highly controversial but slowly gains acceptance due to a widespread promotion of his music, instruments, and methods. Clementi's career is in many respects a perfect case study for the tensions between Enlightenment thinking and new Romantic ideologies.

This website is designed as a companion to the monograph Clementi and the woman at the piano: Virtuosity and the market for music in eighteenth-century London. Here you will find audio examples for all the printed musical examples in addition to some complete recordings that help contextualize my discussions of Clementi’s early career (Chapters 2–4), the rise of the “work-concept,” (Chapters 1, 6), the accompanied sonata in domestic settings (Chapter 5), and the importance of Op. 2 to Clementi’s legacy (Chapter 6). Some of the examples have been recorded on different instruments, to highlight the diversity of keyboard technology that existed at the time of their composition. The “Instruments” document provides details on the instruments used in the recordings.

Introduction to the Digital Companion

Read the explanation and references for the media resources on this site.

About the digital companion

Print book preliminaries

Print book contents

Read the preface and table of contents to the print book.

About the digital companion

Print book preliminaries

Metadata

  • isbn
    9781800856257
  • publisher
    Liverpool University Press
  • publisher place
    Liverpool
  • rights
    World English language rights reserved by Liverpool University Press
  • rights holder
    Liverpool University Press
  • series number
    2022:06
  • series title
    Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment