Online Exhibits@Yale

The Dawn of Romanticism

Engraving of Muzio Clementi

Misc. Ms. 174
Florence Wilshire,
Muzio Clementi and His Era

Muzio Clementi

Engraving by T. Hardy

Muzio Clementi was born in 1752, four years before Mozart. But he lived well into the Romantic era; by the time of his death in 1832, Beethoven, Weber, and Schubert had died, Rossini had retired, Donizetti, Bellini, Meyerbeer, and Mendelssohn were already famous, and Berlioz, Chopin, and Schumann were beginning to come to prominence.

For too many music lovers today, Clementi’s name brings to mind only exercises and elementary sonatinas written for young pianists. But he was one of the greatest pianists of his era, the composer of impressive and ambitious works, and also a successful music publisher and piano manufacturer. Born in Rome, Clementi spent most of his career in England; he was so highly esteemed there that he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

This engraving is from a collection of drafts and research material belonging to Florence Wilshire, the author of an unpublished biography of Clementi. She was Clementi’s great-granddaughter.

The Gilmore Music Library also owns a letter that Clementi wrote to his father on Christmas Eve, 1781. Later same day, he and Mozart both performed for the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II in a famous piano competition (which was declared a tie). 

Muzio Clementi's manuscript copy of Mozart's Symphony no. 41

Misc. Ms. 582
Purchased with income from the Horowitz Fund

Muzio Clementi

Manuscript copy of
Mozart’s Symphony No. 41

 

This manuscript score of Mozart’s celebrated Symphony No. 41 (often called the “Jupiter” Symphony) is in the hand of Muzio Clementi. In earlier centuries, when music publication was expensive and labor was cheap, copying music by hand was a cost-effective practice. Countless works circulated only in manuscript copies, and many young composers honed their skills (and expanded their libraries) by making handwritten copies of whatever music was available to them. But Clementi’s motive for copying this symphony is mysterious. His manuscript is apparently based on the first published edition of the full score (London: Cianchettini & Sperati, ca. 1810). By that time, Clementi had long been a famous musician and a prosperous businessman. He would have had no trouble purchasing published scores, and if he required a manuscript copy for some reason, he could have hired a copyist. Perhaps this time-consuming project is a mark of his esteem for his erstwhile rival, Mozart.

This manuscript has an especially distinguished provenance; it is said to have belonged to the eminent pianist Johann Baptist Cramer (a student of Clementi) and later to Johannes Brahms, who was an avid collector and scholar, as well as a great composer.

Engraving of Ludwig van Beethoven

Portrait File

Ludwig van Beethoven

Engraving by Blasius Höfel,
based on a pencil drawing
by Louis Letronne
1814

 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest composers in the history of music. In the transition between Classical and Romantic, he is the dominant figure. He began his career squarely in the Classical tradition typified for modern listeners by the music of Haydn and Mozart. Indeed, Beethoven was a student of Haydn, and was deeply influenced by Mozart. Most historians and critics classify Beethoven as the culmination of the Classical era. But if he was not fully Romantic in his own right, Beethoven exercised an overwhelming influence on the composers who came after him. They followed in his footsteps in countless ways, ranging from the technical (such as placing the second group of a sonata form in a key other than the dominant or the relative major) to the social (such his belief that a great musician belonged on an equal footing with the aristocracy). His Ninth Symphony, with its vast scale, narrative arc (including the quotation of earlier movements in the finale), and use of voices in an instrumental genre, was especially influential.

Engraving of Carl Maria von Weber

Portrait File

Carl Maria von Weber

Engraving

Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826) ranks among the most important early Romantic composers, known for his virtuosic piano music, his clarinet concertos, and especially for his popular and influential German Romantic operas, of which Der Freischütz is the most famous. The musical quotation at the bottom of this engraving is “Leise, leise, fromme Weise,” Agatha’s prayer in Freischütz.

Engraving of Felix Mendelssohn

Portrait File

Felix Mendelssohn

Engraving by
A.H. Payne and W.C. Wrankmore,
after Hildebrand

Of the major early Romantic composers, Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) was the most classically inclined. Although his works include their share of stormy, passionate, or sentimental passages, they often display a gracefulness, balance, and lightness of touch that can recall Haydn and Mozart. Nor were Mendelssohn’s links to the music of the past limited to the Classical composers; he was interested in many aspects of early music, and he was a key figure in the Bach Revival. 

The Dawn of Romanticism