Clementi and the woman at the piano

BookClementi and the woman at the piano

Clementi and the woman at the piano

Virtuosity and the market for music in eighteenth-century London

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2022:06


June 13th, 2022





This book takes as its 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.

Author Information

Erin Helyard has been acclaimed as an inspiring conductor, a virtuosic and expressive performer of the harpsichord and fortepiano, and as a lucid scholar who is passionate about promoting discourse between musicology and performance. He is Artistic Director of the award-winning Pinchgut Opera in Sydney, Australia.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
List of Musical Examples                                                                                 List of Tables                                                                                       List of Figures                                                                                                 Preface                                                                                                Chapter 1: Clementi and the EnlightenmentChapter 2: Mozart’s Insult and the Irritations of VirtuosityChapter 3: Keyboard Performance and Gender in Late Eighteenth-Century LondonChapter 4: Clementi’s “Black Joke”Chapter 5: Male Theoria and Female PraxisChapter 6: Clementi in the Marketplace and the Conservatoire   Conclusion: Clementi’s CoinAppendix: Ideological differences regarding keyboard practicing/music education in 36 conduct books and treatises, 1741-1838      Bibliography