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Marianna MARTINES (1744 - 1812): "La Tempesta"

Anna Bonitatibus, mezzo-sopranoa
La Floridianab
Dir: Nicoleta Paraschivescu

rec: Feb 12 - 14, 2014, Arlesheim, Reformierte Kirche
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88875026722 ( 2015) (66'48")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Concerto for keyboard and orchestra in Gbc; Il nido degli amori, cantata for soprano and orchestraab; La Tempesta, cantata for soprano and orchestraab Orgoglioso fiumicello, scena for soprano and orchestraab; Sonata for harpsichord in Gc

Liane Ehlich, Renate Sudhaus, transverse flute; Thomas Meraner, Philipp Wagner, oboe; Silvia Centomo, Daniel Lienhard, horn; Stefano Barneschi, Nicholas A. Robinson, violin; Gianni de Rosa, viola; Marco Testori, cello; Anna Flumiani, bassoon; Marco Lo Cicero, double bass; Nicoleta Paraschivescu, harpsichord (soloc)

This is the second disc Nicoleta Paraschivescu devotes to music by Marianna Martines. The first dates from 2012 and included music from early in her career. This disc focuses on music from later stages, written between 1769 (Sonata in G) and 1786 (Orgoglioso fiumicello).

Martines was born in Vienna; her father was from Naples and had come to Vienna as gentiluomo to the papal nuncio. She received lessons from Porpora and Haydn and studied counterpoint with Giuseppe Bonno who was court composer in Vienna since 1739. Before that he had been sent to Naples to be educated by Durante and Leo. In Vienna the family lived in the same house as the librettist Pietro Metastasio who took Marianna under his guidance and supported her until his death.

Martines was highly respected both as a performer and as a composer. Charles Burney met her during his visit to Vienna and heard her sing two of her own arias, accompanying herself on the harpsichord. "She truly surpassed the expectations I had come to have on her." He called her "the most perfect singer (...) I have ever heard." She held soirees which were attended by Haydn and Mozart, and with the latter she played quatre mains.

She was a productive composer, but unfortunately many of her works have been lost. Her extant oeuvre comprises a number of sacred works, including two oratorios, some secular cantatas, an orchestral overture, three keyboard concertos and three keyboard sonatas. Like the first disc this second instalment brings a mixture of vocal and instrumental works.

Martines composed all her secular works on texts by Metastasio, and that includes the three cantatas performed here. They are for the same scoring: soprano and orchestra. In comparison with the earlier cantatas which were performed on the first disc, the tessitura of the solo voice is a little lower. That explains the use of a mezzo-soprano here. La Tempesta dates from 1778 and still follows the structure of the secular cantata of the baroque era: two pairs of recitative and aria. However, it differs from the baroque cantata not only in the use of an orchestra of strings and wind, but also in that both recitatives are accompanied. The orchestra plays an important role in the depiction of the text.

Il nido degli amori and Orgoglioso fiumicello date from 1783 and 1786 respectively and omit the first recitative. Two arias embrace a dramatic accompanied recitative of substantial length (2'28" and 4'06" respectively). The recitative of Il nido degli amori follows the first aria attacca. The closing aria of Orgoglioso fiumicello includes an obbligato part for violin.

It is known that Martines composed twelve keyboard concertos; only three have survived. The Concerto in E which was included on the first disc was scored for keyboard with strings and bc, here the accompainiment is for an orchestra of wind and strings. It dates from 1772 and is probably the latest in Martines' oeuvre. The concerto has a virtuosic solo part which undoubtedly reflects the composer's own skills.

The Sonata in G is the earliest work on this disc as it dates from 1769. It is assumed that Martines has written 31 keyboard sonatas; just three have come down to us. The piece is largely in the galant idiom and that goes especially for the first and second movements.

I was quite enthusiastic about the first disc and concluded that Martines' oeuvre is well worth exploring. I can repeat that here, because these cantatas are fine works, the concerto is a substantial addition to the repertoire for keyboard and orchestra. The sonata is a nice piece but as there are so many keyboard sonatas from this period it is probably not an addition to the catalogue which performers have been waiting for.

I was happy with the performances on the first disc, but am a little disappointing about the present recording. Nicoleta Paraschivescu plays the harpsichord parts very well and La Floridiana gives an excellent account of the orchestral parts. The dramatic aspects of the cantatas come off nicely and there is no lack of expression in Anna Bonitatibus' singing. But her incessant vibrato seriously undermines the overall impression of this disc. It is just annoying to hear it on every single note. Some will have no problem with it, and they certainly shouldn't hesitate to add this disc to their collection. But I find it hard to swallow and from a historical point of view it is untenable. That makes me recommend this disc only with considerable hesitation.

Johan van Veen ( 2015)

Relevant links:

Anna Bonitatibus
La Floridiana


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