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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 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 at 19:46
  • Clementi is more associated with beginner students banging through the etudes and sonatinas.
    – ojs
    Jul 29 at 20:01
  • @ojs Yes. That, too, is part of what motivated the question — Clementi's popular relegation to "student level", despite his having been considered at least on par with Mozart as a virtuoso in their day.
    – Aaron
    Jul 29 at 20:04
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    Didn’t Mozart generally write more catchy melodies? Jul 29 at 21:01

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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 sonata had a more consistent rhythmic pattern throughout and often included scales. Mozart's sonata is repetitive and I think it is quite catchy, which is why you have probably heard it before. Whereas Clementi's sonata had a less regular beat. It is quite unexpected and relatively more complicated than Mozart's famous sonata. For example, from 3:19 to 3:25 of Clementi's sonata, it progresses from fast then to slow, then to fast again.

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. 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 even 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
    10 hours ago
  • @Aaron Thanks for the feedback!
    – user87626
    3 hours ago
  • @Aaron Is it better now?
    – user87626
    3 hours ago

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