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2nd part - Musical duels: Mozart vs Clementi
A duel while a sumptuous reception was taking place offered by Emperor Joseph II in honor of the Grand Duke and future Emperor of Russia Paul I and his wife Maria Fyodorovna.

It was Christmas Eve of 1781. In the Hofburg Palace, the residence of the imperial court of Vienna, a sumptuous reception was taking place offered by Emperor Joseph II in honor of the Grand Duke and future Emperor of Russia Paul I and his wife Maria Fedorovna ( born Sofia Dorotea Princess of Württemberg). The grand ducal couple had visited Vienna during a long Grand Tour through Europe, which they had undertaken under the pseudonym of the Counts of Sévigny. Both were great music lovers (with some expertise: for three years, until 1779 the composer and choirmaster at the court of Tsarina Caterina had been Paisiello).

Coincidentally, Muzio Clementi (Rome 1752 - Evesham 1832) had also arrived in Vienna a few days ago. Preceded by a solid and growing fame as a composer and as a virtuoso, the first year he left London where he resided, for a long concert tour. Over the course of three years it would take him to perform in France, Germany and Austria.

The twenty-five-year-old Mozart had also settled in the imperial capital for a few months, and had already made his talent known in the circles of the Court.

It was a perfect opportunity to offer a memorable event to their guests: the two musicians had been invited to play that evening, but without being informed of the expected duel.

The details of the episode are vividly described by those directly involved in their correspondence. So Clementi tells us: “After a few days that I was in Vienna, I was invited by the Emperor to play for him on the fortepiano. As soon as I entered the music room, I found a man who, due to his elegant appearance, I thought was a chamberlain of the emperor; but, as soon as the conversation started, he immediately moved on to musical questions and we recognized ourselves as colleagues - like Mozart and Clementi - and greeted each other cordially ».

Giuseppe II d'Asburgo-Lorena
Joseph II of Habsburg-Lorraine

The two musicians, after exchanging the customary compliments, were ready to face each other in the musical duel that was required of them. Mozart describes the challenge:  “The emperor decided that he would play first. The Holy Catholic Church! He said, because Clementi is Roman. He preluded and performed a sonata. Then the emperor said to me: "Allons, fire!". I in turn preludes and played some variations; the Grand Duchess presented some Paisiello sonatas (copied by her hand and almost illegible) of which I had to play the Allegri and Clementi, the Andante and the Rondò. We then chose a theme from them and developed it on two pianos. (Letter to his father, January 16, 1782)

Both Mozart and Clementi had amazed the audience: Clementi had amazed everyone with his recently composed sonata (the Sonata in B flat major op. 24 n. 2) performed with unparalleled virtuosity; Mozart responded by playing with incredible intensity, evoking all feelings through his music. Certainly neither of them had ever faced such a formidable and formidable opponent.

How did the duel end?

Officially, as far as we know, with the tact and elegance that his role required, the Emperor declared the tie, rewarding the two artists in equal measure. According to some authors, Joseph II privately expressed a preference for Mozart, who did not, however, earn him the post at court in which he had hoped.

The two composers drew a totally opposite impression from this episode. Clementi expressed great appreciation for the famous colleague, so much so that he wrote “I have never before heard playing so cleverly and gracefully. Most of all I was impressed by an adage and many of the variations he improvised whose theme chosen by the emperor, we had to vary in turn, while the other accompanied ”.

Mozart did not reciprocate the esteem of the great antagonist: “Clementi is a good pianist and that says it all. It sounds good for what concerns the right hand, its power is all in the third passages. For the rest he doesn't have a cent of feeling or taste, - in a word he is a simple mechanicus ”. In a later letter, he even wrote: "Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians."

Nonetheless, the main theme of the Sonata that Clementi had performed in that memorable musical challenge struck Mozart to the point that ten years later he would take it up again in the overture of the Flute Magical. Clementi was disappointed, and took care to put a note in the printed editions of his piece in which it was specified that the piece had been composed ten years before Mozart's opera.

However, the episode does not detract from Clementi's admiration for Mozart, as can be seen from the numerous transcriptions of Mozart's compositions, including a version for piano only of the overture of the Flute Magical.

Clementi returned to England in 1782, where he continued his career as a pianist, composer and teacher with great success. Later he was also a musical publisher, in particular of the compositions of Beethoven - his great admirer - who had granted him the publishing rights for England of all his compositions.

He was a piano maker with his own factory, a business that flourished over the years, and allowed him a comfortable life. Gifted with inventiveness and excellent technical knowledge, he brought innovations and improvements to the mechanics of the instrument, some of which are still in use today.

In 1813, together with other musicians, Clementi founded the Philharmonic Society of London, which in 1912 will become the Royal Philharmonic Society still existing today.

For his artistic merits and his fame, he had the honor of being buried in Westminster Abbey, where the commemorative plaque remembers him as'Father of the piano ',' father of the piano '. 

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