Sonatina Op. 36, No. 1 (First Movement) – Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) is one of the music pieces that piano teachers recommend for students at a certain level of their musical journey. It’s hard to believe that as I was a piano student, my teacher has recommended it for me at the age of eight. Growing up to be a piano teacher and a producer for 11 years, I am still finding myself including this music piece as an option for my student to perform and interpret. What makes that piece so special and still alive even in our modern days?
Muzio Clementi Known by his piano sonatas that later has been classified as sonatinas after the success of his sonatinas Op 36, was mainly influenced by Domenico Scarlatti and Franz Joseph Haydn. Clement was able to develop a fluent and technical legato style, which he passed on to a generation of pianists, and was a notable influence on Ludwig van Beethoven and Frédéric Chopin.
The more I look at this piece and classifies it as simple the more I admire the way how so many music elements are dancing hand in hand in it. As an AB form, this first movement is mind-blowing and an open door for students that are willing to improve their techniques and skills.
Referred back to most of the printed copies of this music piece and if we look at the one that I have from the book “Piano Pieces for Children” Copyright 1932 Amsco Music Publishing Company, You see a music direction “Spiritoso” at the top of the music sheet. Meaning animated, funny, or agitated. The combination of slur and detached as articulation in the first motif of the main theme is the key to its spirit. I encounter many students that used to face challenges playing these first 2 bars at the beginning with the ability to switch between legato and staccato so quickly.
Moving forward in part A, as an educator I have to say the melody is a very good example of using scales in its musical context. Starting a descending scale of the C Major in bar three switching into a modulation in G Major in an ascending movement in bar eight.
Adding up crescendo, Forte, and piano as dynamics
and switching from legato and staccato like as said before it makes me realize something; within fifteen bars only I can teach my student the concepts of Legato, Staccato, Piano, Forte, Crescendo, Decrescendo, and modulation. Pretty interesting how condensed this sonatina is although labeled as simple!
In my piano teaching, I always insist on using the fingering suggestions on the paper itself and what so I call it “hand grip”. It’s fascinating for students to realize how simple a music passage could be by just placing their hand with the appropriate grip. A very good example is bar numbers twenty and twenty-one. Playing these two bars with a gentle pedal is tempting to me as a listener and to my students as a performer. The moment they manage how to play it fast, they never want to stop repeating it!
Reaching towards the end of the movement with the integration of octaves, ascending descending scales, and handgrip accompaniment, Playing this music piece is absolutely a bridge for beginner piano players realizing that performing requires the essential of expressing all musical elements, concepts, and mindset into the performing stage. Anyone can hit the notes written but what matters is to express what the energy behind it is.
Tyson, Alan (1967). Thematic catalog of the works of Muzio Clementi. Tutzing: Schneider