Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Marianna Martines: An "Incomparable" Musician "Endowed with Superior Genius"

Anna Catharina ("Marianna") Martines (died 13 December 1812)

Born in Vienna on 4 May 1744, the musician Anna Catharina Martines was the daughter of Nicolo Martinez and his wife, Maria Theresia.

Anna Cathariana--"Marianna"--Martines
Her surname, unusual in Austria, was from her paternal grandfather, a Spanish soldier who had settled in Naples. Martines's father, Nicolo, was born in Naples, took up his father's military career, and also became a soldier, serving in the forces of the Habsburg Archduke Charles, whose claim to the Spanish throne triggered the War of the Spanish Succession. Charles did not become the Spanish king, but he was elected as Holy Roman Emperor in 1711.

Having come to Austria with Charles's forces, Niccolo Martines met and married the Austrian Maria Theresia. In order to remain in Austria, he turned from a military to a civilian career, taking up the post of papal nuncio, a diplomatic representative of the pope, in the Habsburg court.

His success in that role reflects his liberal education and his friendship with intellectuals and artists, like the Italian poet and librettist Pietro Antonio Trapassi, with whom the family shared a house in Vienna.

About Trapassi and his significance in her family, Marianna Martines would later write: "But in all my studies, the chief planner and director was always, and still is, Signor Abbate Metastasio [Trapassi's pseudonym] who, with the paternal care he takes of me and of all my numerous family, renders an exemplary return for the incorruptible friendship and tireless support which my good father lent him up until the very last days of his life.”

As Martines notes, Trapassi oversaw her musical education. Under his direction, Anna Catharina, who would later rename herself Marianna, showed early promise as a musician, both as a singer, training with the Neapolitan composer Niccolò Porpora, and as a keyboardist, taking lessons with Franz Joseph Haydn. (Haydn seems to have lived in the same building in Vienna.)

Showing some promise as a composer, Martines began studying with the German composer Johann Adolph Hasse and with Giuseppe Bonno, an Austrian composer (of Italian origins, as his name suggests) for the imperial court.

Marianna Martines would perform for the court as a child; as an adult, she would go on to perform for the Empress Maria Theresa.

Given her sex and social class, Martines did not have a professional appointment (like court musician), nor was she paid for her performances. However, although she remained in Vienna, she garnered a reputation throughout western Europe. She established a vocal studio, where she trained her own students, and she maintained professional friendships and associations with other musicians, including Mozart, with whom she is known to have performed. 

Although she did not travel, Martines was elected to the Accademia Filarmonica (Philharmonic Academy) of Bologna in 1773 (the motet she composed for the academy was never performed, however.)

Marianna Martines,
portait by Peter Anton Lorenzoni
During her life, Martines composed a sizable number of works in multiple genres. Her legacy survives in her musical compositions, about sixty-five of which are known to survive today.

As an interesting note, the English musicologist Charles Burney, the father of novelist Fanny Burney, saw Martines perform when he was in Vienna:
Her performance indeed surpassed all that I had been made to expect. She sung two airs of her own composition, to words of Metastasio, which she accompanied on the harpsichord, in a very judicious and masterly manner; and, in playing the ritornels, I could discover a very brilliant finger. To say that her voice was naturally well-toned and sweet, that she had an excellent shake, a perfect intonation, a facility of executing the most rapid and difficult passages, and a touching expression, would be to say no more than I have already said, and with truth, of others; but here I want words that would still encrease the significance and energy of these expressions. The Italian augmentatives would, perhaps, gratify my wish, if I were writing in that language; but as that is not the case, let me only add, that in the portamento, and divisions of tones and semi-tones into infinitely minute parts, and yet always stopping upon the exact fundamental, Signora Martinetz was more perfect than any singer I had ever heard: her cadences too, of this kind, were very learned, and truly pathetic and pleasing.
For an excellent and thorough essay on Martines, I recommend the entry at the Encyclopedia of World Biography, which you can access by clicking here.

For more information on Martines's surviving work, the Women of Note: Celebrating Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Music by Women website posts technical details (click here). Scores are available here, at the International Music Score Library.

There is also a full-length study, Irving Godt's Marianna Martines: A Woman Composer in the Vienna of Mozart and Haydn.