Martines Il Primo Amore

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Martines
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Martines Il Primo Amore
WORKS: Overture in C; Cantata ‘Il primo amore’; Concerto per cembalo in A; Scelta d’Arie composte per suo diletto da Marianna Martines
PERFORMER: Nuria Rial (soprano); La Floridiana/Nicoleta Paraschivescu
CATALOGUE NO: 88697885792

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Marianna Martines was, astonishingly, a successful female composer in Mozart’s conservative Vienna. Although decorum normally banned polite women from ‘male’ activities such as composition, Martines’s talent induced Haydn to teach her and Metastasio, the era’s star librettist, to champion her. Beyond her own salon, where she sang and played her compositions, Martines’s music circulated among literati. Metastasio even persuaded the Accademia Filarmonica, Europe’s most prestigious body of composers, to appoint Martines as its first female member –a tribute to her reputation, and his authority.

Director Nicoleta Paraschivescu artfully teases the charms out of Martines’s ancien regime cantatas and instrumental works, which are notated only in primary sources. The task is challenging: Martines relied heavily on variations, exploring polished, rather than extreme, expression. Paraschivescu and La Floridiana draw us into Martines’s music through exquisite detailing. The archness of Martines’s phrasing, the delicacy of her dancing pulses, and the sly timing of her modal shifts bloom gorgeously. Soprano Nuria Rial is equally appealing on this recording, with a clarity – of diction, timbre, and expression – and above all a purity of tone which all combine to seduce the ear.

One decision puzzled me: Martines reportedly richly ornamented her melodies during performance, yet the artists on this disc rarely do so. The execution on this disc nonetheless convinced me entirely. Four of five works are world premieres; all the music richly deserves to be heard.

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Berta Joncus