RECENT: Defining Our Field - what is 'classical music' to us, why are we involved and what can we learn from our differences? Read John Dante Prevedini's essay, watch the panel discussion and make your own comments.
Marianna Martines (also known as Marianna von Martinez) was born in Vienna on 4 May 1744. From a very early age it was quite evident that where music was concerned she was destined for great things. Indeed, her life was spent totally in the service of music, and her fame as an accomplished composer of oratorios, masses, sacred choral works and secular cantatas as well as orchestral and keyboard pieces, was second to none. By 1761 Martines had already composed three large Catholic masses and a motet for performance at St Michael's Church, the imperial court church, and her reputation was growing by the day. After 1765 she primarily wrote chamber cantatas, motets and arias for solo voices.
From an early age she was greatly influenced by Pietro Metastasio and set many of his texts to music. It is surmised that many of her compositions were performed by her goodself, as noted by Englishman Charles Burney while visiting Vienna in 1772. In 1773 Martines was honoured by the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna for her inspiring Dixit Dominus, a large motet for chorus, soloists and orchestra, which we find on this recording. She was the first woman to join this society of musicians and composers. Martines successfully carved out a life for herself as a single woman with a teaching and composing career at her home, having never formally been employed at any court. This was unheard of at that time. Martines' accomplishments were due, in no small measure, to the famous imperial poet Metastasio, who became a mentor and supervisor of her education. This is no surprise as Marianna and the poet lived in the same building for over fifty years. Also, not only did he guide her in her career with great diligence, but he also arranged for Marianna to study harpsichord with Franz Joseph Haydn, and singing and composition with Nicola Porpora and Giuseppe Bonno.
Talented and intelligent, Martines became conversant in German, French, Italian and English. When the father died suddenly, Metastasio helped Marianna and the other children establish their careers. Martines and her sister Antonia reciprocated by caring for the poet in his old age. This relationship served the sisters well, as Metastasio arranged to leave his estate to them. Independent and financially secure, the two unmarried sisters managed a large home, where they regularly hosted musical events attended by performers and composers, including Haydn and Mozart. Martines also founded a singing school for young women, where she successfully trained many first-rate singers. She died on 13 December 1812 in Vienna, aged sixty-eight, leaving behind a large body of music and a reputation as a fine singer, composer and harpsichordist.
The motet 'Dixit Dominus', after Psalm 110, represents something like the composer's visiting card. Although the work primarily bears the imprint of early Italian classicism, it juxtaposes contrapuntal work in the old style with galant elements in keeping with those times, and her instrumentation of it is richly varied and colourful.
Listen — Marianna Martines: Dixit Dominus
(track 1, 0:22-1:20) ℗ 2021 Classic Produktion Osnabrück :
The sacred cantata Come le limpide onde, after Psalm 115 [?], contains, as a special feature, two arias with an obbligato part for salterio - the Baroque forerunner of today's dulcimer.
Listen — Marianna Martines: A così indegni accenti (Come le limpide onde)
(track 12, 1:35-2:25) ℗ 2021 Classic Produktion Osnabrück :
The Symphony in C is very much in the Haydn mould of Sturm und Drang and, with its many stirring passages, it is an ideal piece to round up this programme on a high.
Listen — Marianna Martines: Allegro spiritoso (Symphony in C)
(track 9, 2:22-3:21) ℗ 2021 Classic Produktion Osnabrück :
This is undoubtedly a treasure of a disc, full of glorious music that creates the perfect mood, not only for meditation, but also for experiencing that spiritual serenity which today is so rare a commodity for many people. A veritable superlative issue that should arouse keen interest in the life and works of this wondrous woman composer. One of my discs of the year.
Copyright © 17 August 2021