|A young lady composer who impressed Burney and Mozart|
|1765: a young lady, 21-years-old, a former Wunderkind, like Mozart, a skilled and famous singer, keyboardist and composer, whom the Viennese musical world already appreciated for her artful many qualities and talents, saw her Sonata for keyboard in A major published, as part of the Johann Ulrich Haffner's collection. Among her admirers, the Empress Maria Theresa, Charles Burney (who, in 1772, said after having attended one of her performances: her performance and music «delighted and astonished me!», with reference probably also to her Keyboard Sonata in G major, which needed «a very brilliant finger», and other vocal compositions) and even that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was notoriously (and sometimes even infamously) extra-critical towards his colleagues and especially on keyboard music matter. Just consider, for example, to comprehend the level of quality of her art in music performing, that probably the famous Piano Concerto No. 5 K. 175 (which Mozart considered his favourite one among his piano concertos), so rich in dynamic energy like a sort of amazing box full of musical fireworks, was orginally written by Mozart as a Bravura Concerto piece for Marianne von Martinez, and also, as a singer, she had excellent qualities of virtuoso performer, capable of perfectly singing the most difficult passages of any kind!|
|This young woman was the Austrian Marianna Martines or Marianne von Martinez (Vienna, May 4, 1744 – December 13, 1812), who gained a particular position in the universe of 18th century classical composers, being at the same time a wonderful performing singer and musician, capable of playing even the most difficult scores with great agility, and a really prolific composer, achieving a personal catalogue of more than 200 works (also for orchestra and for choir), written in a charming and beautiful classical manner from the galant style to the empfindsamer style, expressive style, mainly cultivated by C.P.E. Bach, the son of J.S. Bach, with an incredible stylistic overlapping with the first keyboard production of one of her music teachers, the young J. Haydn.|
|It is a fact that this beautiful Sonata in A rapidly disappeared from the concert repertoire already at the beginning of 19th century (unfortunately with many other wonderful works of that period), and this must be considered a shame, since the musical qualities of this Sonata are of such level that they make this work a really charming, brilliant and splendid Konzertstück, which can surely attract the attention of the audience and can be also played on a modern concert piano with full satisfaction of both the listeners and the performer.|
|The quality, in fact, of the music written by Marianne von Martinez was astonishingly high. Her music and her performances profoundly impressed her contemporaries (in 1773 she became also an effective member of Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, a rare privilege for a musician and composer!, she acquired by presenting as entrance pieces a psalm and a Miserere), as her music still impresses us today, when we finally can give life again to her scores after more then two centuries of total silence. Marianne von Martinez was a skilled and charming composer and an undisputed outstanding figure, both for the quality and the quantity of her musical production, in the not particularly large world of the women composers.|
|So we hope that our few lines can promote the study and the diffusion, at least, of this little charming gem for keyboard, even in consideration of the amazing and fundamental historical background which exists behind it!|
|Haydn, von Martinez and the Scarlatti the Gambler connection|
|Recently the pianist Olivier Cavé has rightly pointed out, how profound the existing connections are between the keyboard Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, a famous musician and avid gambler friend of both Porpora and Farinelli, and those by Joseph Haydn, connections that can be even more appreciated, since there is an undisputed close direct relationship between the thematic material used by the Neapolitan composer and various themes used by papa Josef in his Sonatas. And on this subject Philip Kennicott has written a really interesting article which appeared on Gramophone (http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/haydn-scarlatti-piano-sonatas).|
|The influence of Scarlatti’s works on Haydn was, in the end, so strong and enduring that even an old aged Haydn, in 1794, paid a homage to the old master in his Sonata No. 62 in E-flat major, a sonata, which, instead, is, under all other respects, the most modern of his keyboard works. The Scarlattian sequence of repeated notes in its beginning, the girandole, and the repeats, so characteristic features!, somehow seem to be a sincere and emotional tribute to the art of the great Neapolitan harpsichordist, that Scarlatti, who may have been, most likely, a solid source of inspiration and reflection to Haydn, in order to achieve a full maturity of conception and design in his personal Haydnian formulation of the Sonata.|
|However, a substantial question has always puzzled the scholars on this matter: how could Haydn be influenced by the works by Domenico Scarlatti (first of all, geographically so distant, and a Haydn who famously never embarked for any Italian Grand Tour, as Mozart, Dittersdorf and Vanhal did, instead!) and by his style, which has its roots in the best Neapolitan musical tradition?|
|On this point, probably the answer is to be found in the very humble, but extremely fortunate, beginning of career of Joseph Haydn as freelance musician and composer. And Marianne von Martinez and Haydn’s teacher, Niccolò Porpora, played a fundamental role (consciously or not doesn’t matter) in giving a specific artistic and stylistic orientation to the musical preparation of the young Haydn.|
|And so we are now able to come to the conclusion that the analysis of the Sonata in A major by von Martinez can throw some new light on one of the less known but, at the same time, most important and crucial cross-roads of the History of Music.|
|A blessed Viennese building on the Michaelerplatz|
|At some time, in 1752 ca., a sort of incredible historical astronomical conjunction took place in Vienna. In the same building, on the Michaelerplatz, four different groups of people saw their lives becoming intertwined in such an unpredictable way that, in this very place, the History of Music changed its course for ever.|
|On the lowest floor of this truly blessed building the Esterházy family, the future life long patrons of Haydn, had one of their apartment, on the third floor the important and wealthy Martines family (then in 1774 von Martinez) with their friend Pietro Metastasio, the official Poet Laureate of the Empire and master librettist, father of all European Theatres, always on the middle floors the great Italian composer Niccolò Porpora, the discoverer and teacher of the great Farinelli, and, at the very top, living in a cold and poor attic, a young musician and composer, the young poor Joseph Haydn, who was still trying to pursue a career in music as a freelance professional!|
|What a concentration of artful talents at their most sublime levels all in the same building!|
|The Michaelerplatz building: the music style from Scarlatti to von Martinez|
|The influence of the Sonatas by Scarlatti on the works by von Martinez are simply evident and patent: not only the instrumental technique and the playfulness of certain keyboardistic solutions are so similar, but the Sonata by von Martinez even features the so peculiar Scarlattian repeats, a rarefied fluidity of the musical discourse in a typical Italian style, and the juxtaposition of three movements in binary form, a typical form used by Scarlatti.|
|Actually, the Sonata by von Martinez features also unusual formal combinations (I. Allegro, conventional; II. An unusual and rare, but not unique in its genre, Rondo Adagio [see Mozart, Rondo in A minor K. 511]; III. Tempo di Minuetto as finale), which can give the impression that she was just combining three Sonatas of Scarlattian type, just by working on a possible game of compatible tonalities.|
|Add then a clear idea of a melodic music with an harmonic accompaniment, in combination with a patent disinterestedness towards counterpoint solutions (only the finale of the second movement of the Sonata features a few hints of possible counterpoint complications); all these features, in most cases, match the typical characteristics of the works by the Neapolitan harpsichordists, and this in a more marked way than even the works by Domenico Scarlatti.|
Considering, then, the Sonata in its entirety,
it’s difficult to find out meaningful connections to the real strict Austrian-Viennese
style, apart from the first measure of the first movement and the first five measures
of the Tempo di Minuetto and repeats.
And so now, after this brief analysis, we find ourselves before the very connections existing among von Martinez, Niccolò Porpora, Domenico Scarlatti and Joseph Haydn.
|Porpora, Scarlatti, von Martinez, Haydn: what in common?|
|Niccolò Porpora (Neapolitan composer and singing teacher of Farinelli, a fact this of the great importance, as we’ll see infra) was the singing teacher of Marianne von Martinez, who, as seen previously, lived in the same building where also young Joseph Haydn lived, a young Joseph Haydn, who, at the same time, as his pupil in composition, worked also as assistant to Porpora himself and always attended the singing lessons for von Martinez as accompanist harpsichordist. Moreover Haydn was the teacher of keyboard playing of von Martinez.|
The father of von Martinez was, as origin, a
Spanish soldier, who was born and grew up in Naples, who then pursued a career as
major-domo of the Pope's ambassador to the Austrian Empire. He was from Naples,
like Niccolò Porpora and Domenico Scarlatti, and was a great intimate and close
friend of Pietro Trapassi (that most famous Metastasio, king of the European Theatres
of the whole Europe, and who lived in the same building as Haydn, Porpora and von
Niccolò Porpora was the teacher of the well known Farinelli, who was probably the greatest personal close friend and confidant of Domenico Scarlatti; moreover Farinelli worked and lived at the Spanish Royal Court in Madrid with Scarlatti himself until 1759. Even more, as Farinelli stated before Burney, Scarlatti was an avid gambler, full of debts, and only thanks to his own intervention Farinelli could save Scarlatti from his financial ruin: as a form of compensation in favour of Farinelli, Scarlatti had to write down on score paper all his keyboard Sonatas, which he had until then improvised, composed and developed on a purely private level, a corpus of hundreds of magnificent musical masterpieces which eventually ended in the hands of Farinelli himself, in their original version! And, beside this incredible story narrated to Burney by Farinelli in person, we know that the scores with the works by Domenico Scarlatti really travelled throughout Europe and were regularly shared among musicians and composers so that they could be attentively studied.
|Therefore, in conclusion, as far as we know, Joseph Haydn began writing down his first keyboard sonatas in such a peculiar and particular musical context so far delineated, while he was giving lessons to von Martinez and while he was studying musical composition with Niccolò Porpora.|
|It is thus highly probable that in such circumstances Haydn became acquainted with musical scores of the Sonatas by the most famous harpsichordist Domenico Scarlatti (already a bosom-friend of Farinelli, who was the pupil of Porpora, who was the singing teacher of von Martinez and the composition teacher of Haydn) and was inspired and influenced by them.|
|It is really meaningful and interesting that the compositional and keyboard abilities and talents of Marianne von Martinez found a proper nurture and development in the same context and hence it is now even clearer how and why the Sonata in A major by Marianne von Martinez features some stylistic connections to the works by Domenico Scarlatti and to the contemporary works by her keyboard teacher, Joseph Haydn!|
|Under such respect, the Sonatas by Marianne von Martinez really seem to be a missing link of conjunction between the music by Domenico Scarlatti and that by Joseph Haydn, between the sublime culmination of the Italian style and the Austrian musical world, which was going to become the first Viennese school.|
|The charming characteristics of the music by Marianne von Martinez: from von Martinez to Mozart|
|The first patent qualities of the music written by von Martinez were its natural fluidity and the natural substance of its musical discourse and also an admirable perception of balance and proportion.|
|Also the expressivity of this Sonata has a particular nuance of its own. Surely its second movement, in fact, is the most beautiful one of the three ones, as it is based on a theme rich in sentiment and in marvellous arabesques of an intimate character.|
That feeling of a natural spontaneity in her
musical inspiration, that you can perceive by listening to the music by von Martinez,
is, without doubt, the result of a spirit of freedom of a person, who, due to her
condition, didn't have to respect, in her music production, considerations of business
or of strict social appropriateness, while many composers, in those times, instead,
were, in many situations, forced to respect particular rules to have their works
performed, published and sold (even Mozart had problems in respecting such commercial
rules of that period!).
Just, for an example, you can have a comparison between the Sonata by von Martinez and the three Sonatas by Leopold Mozart, which were written in the same period (1762-1763). In Leopold’s writing for keyboard, with its all beautiful qualities which make such Sonatas among the most, both artistically and technically, interesting accomplishments of that period of production (1760s), you can still perceive, if seen in comparison to Leopold’s orchestral works, somehow that urgency of the professional musician who needs to compose that music, which can position its composer above the other composers, in a sort of particular quest for some technical and formal distinction!
Different considerations, instead, for Mozart and Haydn, who, by following different paths, managed to achieve a natural superior mastery in the treatment of musical proportions and in the rhythm towards results of otherwise unattainable sublime quality.
The Sonatas by Haydn, which historically are a much more appropriate term of comparison for those by von Martinez, feature neat musical ideas, ruled by a peculiar high sense of balance, proportion and expectation, sometimes even of a mathematical quality, which conjures up the 18th century treatises on Classical Rhetoric or on Neo-classical Architecture, both devoted to the definition of perfect appropriateness and harmony in the treatment of the parts.
Mozart, instead, in his keyboard Sonatas, attains a peculiar dilatation of the formal structure, creating a sort of hypertrophic room for the most beautiful and the most expressive musical ideas, giving thus a special expressivity to a single musical subject (an example, in particular, the second movement of the Sonata K. 576). As Alfred Brendel pointed out, the richness and the great number of musical ideas make the Sonatas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a great world on its own, and a strict comparison with Leopold’s keyboard works can reveal how, before, sometimes, a similar conception of the musical invention, the ability in harmonically developing the single parts of the composition and in treating the rhythm can radically distinguish Wolfgang’s production from that of his father.
At this point, what are the differences and the connections between the works by Mozart, Haydn and those by von Martinez?
First of all, the way of approaching the Sonata style used by von Martinez is similar to that used by Haydn, especially in his first works for keyboard: scarce characterization of the second theme, if any, with a consequent substantial lack of counterposing between the first theme and the second theme; presence of compounded themes, as in Mozart’s works, but presented in a sort of continuity rather than in counterposing with the previous ones; some predilection for the code, also with some development of its own, as we can see also in Haydn.
So that’s why this Sonata by von Martinez is more similar to the keyboard works by Haydn, especially the first ones, while they are somehow more distant from the world of the Sonatas by Mozart: and this is really interesting. In fact, we know that Mozart and von Martinez were close friends and that Mozart usually attended the soirées organized by von Martinez, where the two usually played Mozart’s works written for 4-hands.
Notwithstanding, the music and the musical works written by von Martinez left an important and enduring impression on Mozart himself, since it is well known how von Martinez’s vocal compositions and sacred music were inspirational to Mozart, who wrote a few of his pieces following her musical works, i.e. Mass K. 139.
The music by von Martinez is so like an oasis of happy and free artistic inspiration, where the freshness and the natural spontaneity of the musical discourse prevail over any other consideration, where all the parts have their right position and room, following a style of music which does not indulge in contrasts of character or in any sort of conceptual forcing.
|Which instrument for the cantabiles by von Martinez?|
In conclusion, a fundamental question still requires an answer: for which kind of
instrument von Martinez wrote this Sonata? For the harpsichord, the clavichord or
Due to the difficult situation of the original manuscripts and of the original sources for the music by von Martinez, at this moment, it is difficult to give an ultimate answer.
We know, in fact, that, unfortunately, a lot of manuscripts by von Martinez were destroyed by a fire in 1927 and, as a result, today we have only ca. 65 works by her instead of the original ca. 200 ones (and, according to some scholars, Marianne von Martinez may have composed ca. 31 Sonatas for keyboard, which seem to have gone completely lost).
The recordings on harpsichord of this Sonata confer a brilliant and splendid quality to the musical rendering and, technically speaking, its writing style is surely that for the harpsichord. According to Burney, in 1772, she was actually playing the harpsichord, when he met her. However, the original Haffner collection, where the Sonata in A appeared for the first time (ca. 1765), was published under a more generic Italian title «sonate per il cembalo», in a period when the first models of fortepiano were still generally known as Cembali a martellini.
Nevertheless, this Sonata sounds magnificently and naturally also on a modern piano!
The characteristic beautiful cantabile of the musical phrasing by von Martinez (even more cantabile than Scarlatti, but less developed and sophisticated than Mozart’s own keyboard works) may be a clue for a possible original writing for some type of fortepiano for this Sonata in A major.
If we consider also the historical context and the compatibility of range, it can’t be excluded, a priori, that this piece written by von Martinez, was conceived, in origin, for a performance also on a clavichord of big dimensions, an instrument, in that period, particularly popular and which reached its widest fame, thanks to the compositions by C.P.E. Bach, published between 1779 and 1787.
In conclusion, this Sonata, following a common habit in the 18th century music production, was conceived for the keyboard, with a style of writing that, intentionally, could be easily adapted to instruments of various genre, as said beforehand, a common choice in an era, where new technical-instrumental solutions rapidly appeared on the scenery of the musical world and where composers, who were, in most cases, also performing artists, could count on a great variety of keyboard instruments, all with peculiar characteristics and types of range even so radically different the ones from others.
S. & L.M. Jennarelli