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Marianna MARTINES (1744 - 1812): "Il primo amore"

Nuria Rial, sopranoa; Nicoleta Paraschivescu, harpsichordb
La Floridianac
Dir: Nicoleta Paraschivescu

rec: Feb 21 - 23, 2011, Arlesheim, Reformierte Kirche
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88697885792 (© 2012) (64'55")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Berenice, ah che fai?, aria for soprano and orchestraac; Concerto for harpsichord, strings and bass in Ebc; Il primo amore, cantata for soprano and orchestraac; Overture in Cc; Sonata for harpsichord in Ab

Claire Genewein, Renate Sudhaus, transverse flute; Thomas Meraner, Dominik Melicharek, oboe; Olivier Picon, Jurij Meile, horn; Rogério Gonçalves, bassoon; Nicholas A. Robinson, Andrea Rognoni, violin; Stefano Marcocchi, viola; Gaetano Nasillo, cello; Riccardo Coelati Rama, double bass; Nicoleta Paraschivescu, harpsichord

Before the 19th century women played a very limited role in musical life. Female composers were extremely rare, although recent research has shown that in particular in women's convents singing and playing was often of a high standard and that several nuns composed music which is in no way inferior to what was written by more famous male composers of their time. Today only a couple of female composers appear on concert programmes and in CD recordings. The best-known are Barbara Strozzi and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. There is every reason to hope that Marianna Martines is going to join them. This disc includes four first recordings, and they are of very good quality.

Although her families' roots were in Spain her father was from Naples and had come to Vienna as gentiluomo to the papal nuncio. She was taken under the guidance of the famous librettist Metastasio who was a friend of the family and lived in the same house. Marianna received her musical education from Haydn and Porpora, and developed into a fine singer and keyboard player who often accompanied herself. In 1773 she became the first female member of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, a significant token of her reputation. Charles Burney met her and heard her play and sing; he was very impressed calling her "the most perfect lady singer I have ever heard".

Marianna Martines played a substantial role in Viennese musical life. She held soirees which were attended by Haydn and Mozart. With the latter she played some of his keyboard pieces à quatre mains, and in the 1790s she started a singing school in her house. When Metastasio died in 1782 she inherited his harpsichord and his music library.

Martines' oeuvre comprises two oratorios, masses, motets and other sacred works, a number of secular cantatas and arias and some instrumental works. A part of her oeuvre has been lost. Only four of her 12 keyboard concertos have been preserved, and just three of the 31 keyboard sonatas she seems to have written. The Sonata in E is close to the style of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the Concerto in A is in the Italian style of the mid-18th century. Martines mostly composed in the galant idiom, but her music has nothing of the superficiality which is sometimes associated with it. The concerto has two sparkling fast movements which embrace a beautiful andante of a true cantabile character. These keyboard works were very likely composed for her own use, and one can understand that Charles Burney wrote that she had "nimble fingers". So has Nicoleta Paraschivescu who gives very fine accounts of these two compositions.

One may assume that Martines herself also sang the two vocal items on the programme. Il primo amore is a cantata in two pairs of recitative and aria and is rooted in the style of the baroque, with a pastoral content in which Sylvia and Chloris inevitably turn up. Interestingly the second aria turns into the following recitative without interruption, and there is also no pause between the recitative and the closing aria. The latter has the form of a rondo. Berenice, ah che fai? is from a collection of 24 arias on texts by Pietro Metastasio. This particular piece has a text from his libretto Antigono. It is not a single aria but rather two pairs of recitative and aria. It begins with a long recitative which is followed by a short aria, which - after the words "To the far shore ..." - is suddenly interrupted by the recitative "Wretched girl!". The piece closes with a long dacapo aria.

Nuria Rial's interpretations are exemplary. She has a very beautiful voice but her delivery is especially impressive. So often I have noticed that in operas or aria recitals it is almost impossible to understand the text. Here every word is audible, thanks to Ms Rial's outstanding diction. Her treatment of dynamics and her ornamentation deserve nothing but praise. Now and then the arias are quite demanding, in particular because of some wide intervals. Nuria Rial has no problems with them whatsoever; she can fully concentrate on the interpretation.

I was very pleased to hear this disc which convinced me that Marianna Martines' music is well worth exploring. I can't think of a better way to demonstrate its qualities than with the performances we get here. I hope that Nicoleta Paraschivescu and her outstanding ensemble will continue to perform and record parts of this composer's oeuvre.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

Nuria Rial
La Floridiana

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