Music on Radio

For a programme that has been the Radio 3 diehards' rallying point, Composer of the Week keeps coming up surprisingly fresh. It has reinvented itself several times since This Week's Composer. Now it happily runs Johannes Ockeghem at midday and the mysterious "London Piano School" at night, with barely a household name among them except to households that learn Clementi's piano studies.

These 11.30pm repeats from last week's noonday strand have offered one of those documentary-style explorations of an era that Composer of the Week has developed in its current incarnation. School isn't quite the word, and nor is composer because these musicians were running an entire economy of their own with unstoppable energy.

When their leading spirit Muzio Clementi had made his mark with composing and made his pile from teaching, he moved into publishing and piano manufacture. At the start of the 19th century, when London had become the world's second centre of music publishing after Paris, he went off on a business tour with John Field. This was a leg-up that the ambitious 20-year-old from Dublin made the most of. In his role as what the presenter Stephanie Hughes called "salesman-demonstrator", Field played a singularly catchy sonata of his own all over Europe. Soon he was living in St Petersburg and making virtuoso tours which gave the idea of the Nocturne for piano to the world in general and to Chopin in particular.

They were heady days in London, with Haydn making his visits to write symphonies for Salomon's concerts. Clementi's colleagues and rivals featured a catalogue of names that people who learn the piano half-remember: Cramer, Dussek, Moscheles.

As so often in the history of British music, they were nearly all emigres. Clearly they stayed in the learners' canon for so long because of their efforts in getting themselves printed. The music often now sounds strong or (as with Dussek) quirky without quite having the focus of the dominant classical names. Clementi had the bad luck to be an influence on Beethoven - hindsight makes him less fresh now than he would have seemed in his time. The range of his piano concerto, which he industriously revised as a sonata when it was not much played, sounds quite imposing as long as you put Beethoven's No 1 firmly out of your thoughts.

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