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A Summer Prank


Muzio Clementi was one of the most diverse musicians of his time. He was a celebrated pianist. He manufactured and sold pianos. He was a major composer. He was a publisher. And if one account is true, Clementi was also focused to a fault.

In his memoirs, oboist William Parke wrote of a hot summer day in 1796 and an outing during which Clementi and a cellist named John Crosdill went swimming while visiting the estate of the Earl of Pembroke. Hearing of Clementi’s absent-mindedness, Crosdill decided to test it. While Clementi continued to swim, Crosdill sneaked off with his shirt and took it into the house and let Lord Pembroke in on the joke. Parke continues:

At the expiration of half an hour Clementi returned, perfectly dressed as he believed, and while he was expatiating largely on the pleasure he received by his immersion, a gentleman and his lady (friends of the peer) arrived on an evening visit. After the usual introductions had taken place, the lady expressed a desire to hear Clementi play one of his own sonatas on the pianoforte, to which he readily assented.

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Having taken his seat, and fidgeted a little in his peculiar way, he played the first movement of one of his most difficult pieces, and was about to begin the adagio, when, being oppressed with heat, he unconsciously unbuttoned nearly the whole of his waistcoat, and was proceeding, when the lady, greatly surprised, hastily retired to the furthest part of the room while Lord Pembroke, almost convulsed with laughter, apprised Clementi of his situation, who, staring wildly, darted out of the room, and could not by any entreaties be prevailed on to rejoin the party.

The absent-minded Muzio Clementi was also known for going out in the morning wearing one black and one white stocking.

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