Howard Shelley’s survey of the complete piano sonatas of Clementi was acclaimed not only as a set of benchmark performances, but also as the rediscovery of a composer who was uniquely important in his lifetime, which overlapped the careers of Scarlatti and Chopin. This set of Capriccios and Variations is something of a footnote to the series. The earlier works demonstrate Clementi’s lighter and more whimsical side. Most of this music was written to entertain and amuse, with many fantastical virtuoso flourishes of an improvisatory feel. The later works date from the nineteenth century, when Clementi was not quite as prolific as his younger self. Although many of these works, too, were designed for domestic use, there are exceptions such as the Two Capriccios Op 47. These are clearly ‘professional’ music: ambitious, dramatic, radically experimental, often determinedly chromatic, they show the septuagenarian composer still at work in the forefront of the most modern keyboard style. Howard Shelley has made this repertoire his own. He performs with his usual impeccably stylish flair.
“Even the slightest, most trivial pieces are enhanced by Howard Shelley's brisk tempos, and he's served by an infallible technique, from virtuoso finger-dexterity to deeply expressive, spacious reflection elsewhere...from the six discs of Sonatas, complemented by these varied remaining pieces, emerges the distinctive voice of, at best, a truly outstanding composer.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2011 *****
“There are over 152 minutes of music on the present discs, much of it demanding. How Shelley manages to absorb it all and then convince you that he has been playing it all his life with his characteristic elegance and dexterity is a gift given to few. Such an eminent composer deserves no less.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2011
“Shelley dances out the Black Joke's jig theme with infectious delight...his command is supreme in the flashy chords, springy bass-lines and funky accents of the virtuosic Capriccios and though he plays a modern Steinway, his touch is sensitive enough, especially in the bass, to suggest the tone of an original Broadwood.” Classic FM Magazine, November 2011 ****