Maddalena Sirmen

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COMPOSERS: Maddalena Sirmen
WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2; String Quartet No. 3; String Quartet No. 4; String Quartet No. 5; String Quartet No. 6
PERFORMER: Allegri Quartet
As some of the earliest string quartets, these two-movement works have curiosity value guaranteed. But in their expressive range and even their turns of phrase, they come closer to the mature style of Mozart than his better-known, more Germanic precursors. And that is not so improbable, for their composer was a travelling violin virtuoso and singer, and the Mozart family knew her music. Maddalena Lombardini studied at one of the Venetian ospedali, where Vivaldi had once taught, and did most of her composing before she married a fellow musician, Lodovico Sirmen, in 1767.


While the Classical style was emerging, forms were often free and experimental. Sirmen’s distinction is that the shape of each movement grows logically from the material: form, feeling and drama (of which there is quite a bit) are one. Most of the opening movements are steady in pace and quite elaborate – a couple of them approach full-scale sonata structures. But their successors are highly individual: in No. 3 an Allegro alternates with a slow, sicilienne-type dance, and (predictably) major with minor; No. 6 inserts a complete minuet into a quick finale; No. 5 brings back the first movement’s intense slow introduction as a link. Resonant recording, vibrant playing. Robert Maycock