Musical Composer, Conductor, Publisher, Editor, and Piano Manufacturer. Born Muzio Filippo Vincenzo Francesco Saverio Clementi in Rome, Italy, he was the oldest of the seven children whose father was a silversmith and a Swiss mother. His father soon recognized his musical talent and arranged for private musical instruction with a relative, Antonio Baroni, the maestro di cappella at St. Peter's Basilica. At the age of seven, he began studies in figured bass with the organist Cordicelli, followed by voice lessons from Giuseppe Santarelli. A few years later he received counterpoint lessons by Gaetano Carpani. By age of 13, he had already composed an oratorio, "Martitio de' gloriosi Santi Giuliano," and a mass. In January 1766, at the age of 14, he became the organist of the parish San Lorenzo in Damaso, Italy. In 1766 Sir Peter Beckford, a wealthy Englishman visited Rome and was impressed by the young Clementi's musical talent and negotiated with his father to take him to his estate, Steepleton Iwerne, north of Blandford Forum in Dorset, England. Beckford agreed to provide quarterly payments to sponsor the boy's musical education until he reached the age of 21. In return, he was expected to provide musical entertainment at his home, and for the next seven years he lived, performed, and studied at Beckford's in Dorset. In 1770 he made his first public performance as an organist and in 1774 he was freed from his obligations to Beckford and moved to London, England, making his first appearance as a harpsichordist in a benefit concert in April 1775. He made several public appearances in London as a solo harpsichordist at benefit concerts for two local musicians, a singer and a harpist, and served as conductor (from the keyboard) at the King's Theatre (Her Majesty's Theatre), Haymarket, for at least part of this time. In 1780 he began a three year European tour, travelling to Paris, France where he performed for Queen Marie Antoinette, Munich, Germany, and Salzburg, Austria. In Vienna, Austria he agreed to enter a musical contest with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for the entertainment of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II and his guests on 24 December 1781, at the Viennese court. The composers were called upon to improvise and to perform selections from their own compositions and the Emperor diplomatically declared a tie. From 1783 and for the next twenty years, he stayed in England, playing the piano, conducting, and teaching. In 1790 he decided to give up his performing career, possibly in order to bolster his reputation as a composer. In 1798 he took over the publication firm Longman and Broderip, initially with James Longman, who left in 1801. He also began manufacturing pianos, but in March 1807 a fire destroyed the warehouses occupied by his new firm. That same year, he struck a deal with musical composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven, who held him in high esteem, that gave him full publishing rights to all of Beethoven's music in England. He edited and interpreted Beethoven's music but has received criticism for editorial work such as making harmonic "corrections" to some of Beethoven's musical scores. In 1810 he stopped concertizing in order to devote his time to composition and piano making. In January 1813, together with a group of prominent professional musicians in England, he founded the Philharmonic Society of London, which became the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1912. In 1813 he was appointed a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music. By this time his piano manufacturing business was flourishing, which afforded him an elegant lifestyle. As an inventor and skilled mechanic, he made important improvements in the construction of the piano, some of which have become standard in instruments to this day. At the end of 1816 he made another trip to Europe to present his new works, particularly at the Concerts Spirituels in Paris, returning to London in June 1818. In 1821 he once again returned to Paris, conducting his symphonies in Munich and Leipzig. In 1824 his symphonies were featured in five of the six programs at the 'Concerts of Ancient and Modern Music' at the King's Theatre in London. In 1826 he completed his collection of keyboard studies, "Gradus ad Parnassum," and travelled to Paris with the intention of publishing the third volume of the work simultaneously in Paris, London and Leipzig, Germany. He returned to he returned to London in the autumn of 1827. In 1828 he made his last public appearance at the opening concert of the Philharmonic Society and in 1830 he retired from the Society. He then moved to the outskirts of Lichfield, Staffordshire, England and spent his final years in Evesham, Worcestershire, where he died at the age of 80 after a short illness. During his life, he composed nearly 110 piano sonatas. Though his European reputation was second only to Franz Joseph Haydn in his day, his reputation languished for much of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Bio by: William Bjornstad