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Mozart and Clementi were composing for piano in similar styles at the same time and both were considered greats of their day.

The contemporary view, broadly speaking, is that Mozart is the superior composer. What differentiates his piano music from Clementi's? What qualities of Mozart's music are deemed superior to Clementi's?

An ideal answer might demonstrate similar musical material by both composers and show how they each handled that material differently.

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  • From the (likely still not enough) several pieces I have listened to from both Mozart and Clementi, Mozart seems significantly more likely to use the tonic minor of a target key than Clementi is (e.g. in the transition of the exposition of a major-key sonata-allegro, so the tonic minor is of the dominant key - e.g. use of C minor just before a C major section of an F major sonata-allegro). I anecdotally think Mozart is more harmonically creative than Clementi (Mozart's Lacrimosa might be the clearest example of this), but I think I still need more evidence in order to be confident.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jul 29, 2022 at 19:40
  • @Dekkadeci I tend to agree with you that Mozart is more harmonically creative, but also don't have the evidence.
    – Aaron
    Jul 29, 2022 at 19:46
  • Clementi is more associated with beginner students banging through the etudes and sonatinas.
    – ojs
    Jul 29, 2022 at 20:01
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    Didn’t Mozart generally write more catchy melodies? Jul 29, 2022 at 21:01
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    The contemporary view on Mozart is fueled by a centuries old form of xenophobia that made Mozart a folk hero and a martyr and every Italian in Vienna at the time a foreign conspirator. The reason why Mozart is well know but Salieri faded into obscurity is because Mozart became a symbol Germanic pride after his death and Salieri became a symbol of the Italian influence in the arts in Austria at the time.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jul 31, 2022 at 19:25

1 Answer 1

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Mozart and Clementi's genres were both classical, and played similar music, but both had very distinct and different styles.

Piano TV (https://www.pianotv.net/2017/03/history-of-clementi/) states:

By the end of the 1780s, Clementi was known for his flamboyant, virtuosic style – he performed lots of impressive improv and wildly difficult playing. Later in life he restrained himself a little and developed that refined cantabile style he’s known for today.

Clementi and Mozart both played sonatas, Clementi's music differentiated from Mozart's.

Listen to Clementi's sonata

versus Mozart's
.

When you compare both of the musician's sonatas, it is clear that Mozart's famous sonata had a more consistent rhythmic pattern throughout, was repetitive and often included scales. Mozart's sonata was well-constructed, in the sense that every part of his music was connected. It is simple, understandable and familiar (https://interlude.hk/whats-with-mozart/#:~:text=The%20music%20of%20Mozart%20fascinates,%2C%20books%2C%20documentaries%20and%20films.). I thought it was quite catchy, which is why you have probably heard it before.

Whereas Clementi's sonata had a less regular beat. Clementi's music is unique in its own way. It is quite unexpected and relatively more complicated than Mozart's sonata. Clementi's music was unique in its own way For example, from 3:19 to 3:25 of Clementi's sonata, it progresses from fast then to slow, then to fast again. Clementi was probably most recognised for his sonatas. "Clementi’s chief claims to fame are his long series of piano sonatas, many of which have been revived..." - Britannica.

This website (https://www.wolfgang-amadeus.at/en/music_of_Mozart#:~:text=Mozart%27s%20own%20stylistic%20development%20closely,quintet%2C%20and%20the%20piano%20sonata.)

Mozart's own stylistic development closely paralleled the development of the classical style as a whole. In addition, he was a versatile composer and wrote in almost every major genre, including symphony, opera, the solo concerto, chamber music including string quartet and string quintet, and the piano sonata.

Mozart was unique in the way that he could compose very well in many varied musical formats. Few musicians in history could compose so masterfully in every musical genre. This is probably what made him superior and more famous than Clementi was.

Clementi is less well-known today, but he is known for "being among the first to create keyboard works expressly for the capabilities of the pianoforte". (https://www.classiccat.net/clementi_m/biography.php#:~:text=As%20a%20composer%20of%20Classical,first%20virtuoso%20on%20the%20instrument).

Clementi also admired Mozart's works, but Mozart did not feel the same way toward's Clementi's music, and stated, “Clementi doesn't have a Kreutzer's worth of taste or feeling – in a word, [he is] a mere mechanic.” (https://robertgreenbergmusic.com/mozart-clementi-duel/)

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    This is very good, and I especially appreciate that it's documented throughout. The thin point, however, is also the most important one: when you actually compare styles, you describe Mozart, but for Clementi, you just write "list to Clementi's sonata" rather than explicitly describing the distinctions in style. Filling in that gap would make this answer significantly better. Without it, although good, the post never really addresses the central question.
    – Aaron
    Aug 8, 2022 at 23:51
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    Yes, thanks. But now there's a different problem: the way you've described Mozart makes his music sound boring, and Clementi's quite interesting. Was that your intention?
    – Aaron
    Aug 9, 2022 at 12:50
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    @Aaron Mozart is described as simpler, Clementi as more complicated, which is only linked to boring or interesting by preference. Personally I find the music I love the most is usually surprisingly simple. And much of the most popular and commercially successful music made over last 70 years is relatively simple. Aug 9, 2022 at 22:31
  • @ToddWilcox I agree that the best music is often simple :) but I think Aaron was referring to the description before I changed it.
    – user87626
    Aug 10, 2022 at 6:22

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