MARTINES Overture in C. Harpsichord Concerto in E. Harpsichord Sonata in A. Il primo amore. Berenice, ah che fai? • Nuria Rial (sop); Nicoleta Paraschivescu (hpd); dir; La Floridiana (period instruments) • DHM 88697885792 (64:55)
The composer, singer, and keyboard player Marianna Martines (1744-1812) had the good fortune to be born in the same building on Vienna’s Michaelerplatz in which lived the poet Metastasio and the composers Haydn and Porpora, all of which contributed toRead more the young woman’s exemplary education. She spoke Italian, German, French, and English, and her musical talent attracted the early attention of the Empress Maria Theresa. As she got older, she and her sister hosted weekly musical soirées in their home, attracting notable guests from around the Austrian Empire and beyond, including Mozart, who frequently performed four-hand piano duets with Martines.
The ensemble La Floridiana and its director, harpsichordist Nicoleta Paraschivescu, has assembled a well-crafted survey of Martines’s compositional output, almost all of which would have been performed with the composer as soloist during her lifetime. The liner notes claim that all of the works on this disc, with the exception of the Harpsichord Sonata in A, are world premiere recordings. However, the opening work—the charming Overture in C—was recorded under the title Sinfonia in C by JoAnn Falletta and the Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic in 1993 (Newport Classics NCD 60102.) Under Paraschivescu’s direction, the delightful if somewhat ordinary piece sparkles with the color and vibrancy that comes from better period-instrument ensembles. Tempos are crisp without feeling rushed, each musical gesture is delivered with shape and grace, and the silences—especially in the opening gesture of the first movement—are as powerful as the loudest chord.
Paraschivescu is a fine harpsichordist, delivering a poised and refined reading of Martines’s solo Keyboard Sonata in A, balancing youthful energy with mature restraint and adding just enough embellishments and ornamentation to keep the dance movements interesting. While this sonata and those of Martines’s contemporaries would have likely been performed on fortepiano or clavichord as well as harpsichord, Paraschivescu’s strong command of the timing and articulation integral to expressive harpsichord playing never once made this listener question the choice of instrument, even more so on the charming and refreshingly upbeat Concerto in E, with its innocent and wistful middle movement. The string playing is precise and stylish, although it left me wishing for more extremes of dynamic contrast.
Nuria Rial’s remarkable sweet yet strong soprano voice handled Martines’s demanding coloratura passages with aplomb, even when the composer called for athletic agility in her lower range. Her natural and effortless vibrato warmed the sound without obscuring clarity—a too-common fault with singers of later 18th-century repertoire. Rial’s rendition of the final aria of the cantata Il primo amore was simply gorgeous, one of Martines’s more memorable and almost Mozartean melodies delivered with all the pathos of a live performance.
Sonically, this is a very closely recorded album, with Rial placed forward enough on the soundstage to excite the ear without overwhelming. The same is true with the harpsichord in the ensemble, and while that balance worked particularly well in the concerto, the keyboard was a bit overly present in the overture, producing an uncanny feeling, for this listener anyway, of being seated at the keyboard himself.
A very enjoyable CDJanuary 30, 2013By James C S. (Truckee, CA)See All My Reviews"The performances by La Floridiana were excellent. Nuria Rial vocals were as usual simply beautiful. If you are not familiar with Nuria Rial view her performance of the aria from Bach's Cantata BWV 36 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3lRdb5BSGA - js-Bachstiftung."Report Abuse