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Marianna (von) MARTINES (1744-1812)
Il Primo Amore
Overture in C, for winds, strings and continuo (1770) [11:31]
Il Primo Amore - Cantata, for soprano, winds, strings and continuo (1778) [11:13]
Concerto in E, for keyboard (harpsichord) and strings (1766) [17:07]
Sonata in A, for keyboard (harpsichord) (c.1765) [11:18]
Berenice, Ah, Che Fai? - Aria, for soprano, winds, strings and continuo (from: Scelta d'Arie) (1767) [13:08]
Núria Rial (soprano)
La Floridiana/Nicoleta Paraschivescu (harpsichord)
rec. Reformierte Kirche, Arlesheim, Switzerland, 21-23 February 2011.
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88697885792 [63:04]

Someone at Deutsche Harmonia Mundi evidently read Irving Godt and John Rice's book, 'Marianna Martines: A Woman Composer in the Vienna of Mozart and Haydn'. It was published in 2010 by the University of Rochester in their excellent 'Eastman Studies in Music' series. Late author Godt and editor Rice take a detailed look at the life and works of Martines, one of the 18th century's most extraordinary female musicians. Martines was a renowned singer and harpsichordist, but the book contains many musical examples that lay bare the technical craft and artistic 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 Rial.
 
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.
 
Byzantion
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