This weekend the Music department is running a 3-day festival of Italian music. Undergraduate pianists Joe Manghan and Mark Wiseman tell us about one of today’s offerings: a marathon of piano music by Muzio Clementi, held at the University art gallery and led by head of keyboard studies, Professor David Owen Norris.
On Friday evening, a collection of undergraduate pianists clutched their Clementi Sonatinas while waiting for the their turn to perform on the Music Department’s 1796 Broadwood pianoforte. For many of us, it was the first time we had had the opportunity to perform on such an historical, interesting and challenging instrument.
For us, the most difficult aspects of performing on the Broadwood were the smaller range of dynamics and the thinner keys that do not depress as much as a 21st-century piano. The Sonatinas are particularly good pieces for discovering the keyboard as they’ve long been considered valuable teaching tools. Numbered according to their difficulty, each of Clementi’s Sonatinas contain “lessons” on specific technical problems.
The performance wasn’t so much a concert, rather a public experiment where the pianists learnt to grapple with the relatively alien complexities of the pianoforte. Occasionally we heard a few slips and pauses towards the start of a run-through, but each pianist soon became familiar with the instrument and quickly grew in confidence. Performing Sonatina VI ourselves, we had a similarly challenging experience at the piano. Due to the nature of the keyboard, and its place in ensembles, it is often difficult to find ways for pianists to get involved in department-wide activities. We feel that every pianist made the most of the opportunity, and certainly agree with Professor Norris’ comment that everyone rose to the occasion.
I enjoyed it very much, and it was great that everyone rose to the occasion – David Owen Norris