The Technic of the Transition Period

We have already seen that Clementi, the most important factor in the classical technic, lived not only through the first classical period, but through the transition period as well. He was born four years earlier than Mozart and died four years later than Beethoven. Moreover, the most important part of his work was done between the dates of Mozart’s death and that of Beethoven.

Although the romantic ideals were pressing into the foreground, the whole technic of the transition period was classical. We have already noticed that Beethoven’s most difficult concerto is amply provided for in Clementi’s technic.

Beethoven did, indeed, embody a content in the greatest of his works; for the interpretation of which the full resources of our modern instruments are no more than sufficient. In this respect his work is prophetic. But the essential elements of his technic are all to be found in the Gradus of Clementi. One of the most noticeable points of his early technic is his use of rapid successions of chords, as in the Sonata in C, op. 2, No. 3. This is evidently borrowed from Clementi, who was, at that time, his favorite model.

The technic of Schubert and Weber was also based on that of Clementi: The latter, however, made use of extended chords in a way wholly original, an example which has been followed since. He also used the octave glissando in his ” Concert Stueck,” a mere virtuoso trick, which has remained wholly without influence on practice since.

In general, it may be said that not only the contemporaries of Clementi, but all classical players and composers since, have based their technic on his Gradus ad Parnassum. Some of them, like Moscheles, for example, have seized upon points which he had treated but briefly and have elaborated them at great length and in detail. Many individual peculiarities of treatment and style are also to be found, and the classical players of the Romantic period could hardly remain wholly unaffected by the innovations of the Romantic composers. But, in principle, all classical technic is to be found in Clementi ; and all in our modern playing which cannot be accounted for on his principles can be referred to Liszt and the other Romanticists.

In one single point of technic have players, not distinctively Romantic, gone beyond Clementi’s practice or suggestion, viz., the use of the damper pedal. Beethoven used it considerably, and Moscheles (1784-1870) still more extensively. Henselt (born 1814) still further enlarged the domain of the pedal, and Thalberg (1812-1871), who cannot be classed as either a classicist or romanticist, but is the culmination of the “Philistine” school of shallow players, of which Czerny and Kalkbrenner were distinguished representatives, carried the use of it to its extreme limits.