Someone at Deutsche Harmonia Mundi evidently read Irving Godt and John
book, 'Marianna Martines: A Woman Composer in the Vienna of Mozart and
It was published in 2010 by the University of Rochester in their excellent
Studies in Music' series. Late author Godt and editor Rice take a detailed
at the life and works of Martines, one of the 18th century's most
female musicians. Martines was a renowned singer and harpsichordist, but the
contains many musical examples that lay bare the technical craft and
imagination of Martines the composer.
In an ultra-orthodox Vienna, child prodigy Martines was fortunate
enough to have been born into an aristocratic milieu - her family later
earned its right to the German nobiliary particle 'von' she always used in
her signature. She grew up and old in the same house occupied by her
father's friend, the famed Italian librettist and poet Metastasio. He later
became her mentor and his estate she and her also-musical sister inherited
on his death. She was taught by the young Haydn and his teacher Nicola
Porpora, both of whom also lived in the same building. She performed
frequently with her slightly younger contemporary Mozart and for the Empress
Maria Theresa. From the 19th century onwards, Martines remained until very
recently a mere footnote in the biographies of these celebrities. Neither
she nor her sister ever married.
This is a much-needed recording. The strings and winds of La
Floridiana, under founding harpsichordist Nicoleta Paraschivescu have
assembled an attractive programme that offers a purview of Martines's huge
and varied musical talent. This has been done with the help of the sweetly
youthful, yet expressively mature voice of Catalan soprano Núria
Without sounding at all derivative or plagiaristic, Martines'
galant-style music is unsurprisingly reminiscent of Joseph Haydn - perhaps
the biggest compliment for any 18th-century composer. Whilst moderately
conservative, it is consummately crafted, effortlessly elegant and moreishly
mellifluous. Paraschivescu keeps the tempi sprightly, the phraseology
graceful and the ornamentation modest, in the lattermost regard permitting
the listener a truer picture of the notes Martines herself put on the page.
With her clear enunciation, good pronunciation, light vibrato and warm,
youthful tone, Rial is superb in the two atmospheric cantatas, making light
of the passages of fioritura and fluctuating tessituras.
Sound quality is very good. The church ambience is well captured,
although some may find the instrumental-only recordings slightly too
spacious, and the harpsichord overly prominent in the Concerto. The notes,
co-written by Paraschivescu and Melanie Unseld, paint a vivid picture of
Martines' remarkable life and talents. The booklet claims all works except
the Sonata as premiere recordings, but the Overture did in fact appear on
JoAnn Falletta's punning debut disc 'Baroquen Classics' back in 1993,
labelled there as 'Sinfonia in C' (Newport Classics NCD 60102). The original
Italian texts are thoughtfully provided, with good if not entirely faithful
translations into English, German and French alongside one other.
Thanks in no small part to her aristocratic connections, a good deal
of Martines' large output in nearly all genres has survived, yet almost
nothing of which has been recorded - this is only the second monograph. The
first was of her Psalm Cantatas on Koch Schwann/Aulos in 1995 (317882), rare
but still available on the internet. Musicians and labels must take note of
this important disc and start righting that wrong.
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