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Martinez, Marianne (1744–1812)

Martinez, Marianne (1744–1812)

Austrian composer, patron, pianist, harpsichordist, singer, and teacher who composed around 200 works . Name variations: Marianne von Martinez. Born Anna Caterina Martines in Vienna, Austria, on May 4, 1744; died in Vienna on December 13, 1812; father was Spanish in origin and master of ceremonies to the Papal Nuncio; friend and associate of Haydn and Mozart.

Marianne Martinez was born in Vienna in 1744 and grew up in one of the world's most important musical circles. On the first floor of the house in which she lived, the Dowager Princess Esterhazy resided, while Esterhazy's son, the prince, was the patron of Joseph Haydn who lived in the attic. As well, Pietro Metastasio, the court poet and opera librettist, lived with Marianne's family. Although Haydn was the poorest among the occupants in the large house, he soon became part of the active life which unfolded there. Haydn taught Marianne harpsichord and accompanied her to singing lessons; she also showed talent for composition. The young girl studied with Porpora, Bonno and Hasse.

By the 1760s, Martinez was writing large church works. She would compose around 200 pieces, including four symphonic masses, six motets, and three litanies for choir and orchestra. One of her masses, probably her third, was performed at the court chapel in 1761; it was a large work with more than 150 pages of score. But when Joseph II came to the throne, he reinstated an old rule against women "speaking" in church, that is "singing" in church. This meant two things: women composers like Martinez could no longer hear their works played in churches, and male castratii were substituted for women. (The practice of castrating young boys to ensure that their soprano voices would not change at puberty became popular in church choirs in the mid-14th century; by the 17th century, the vogue had spread to opera, and thousands of young boys, at their parents' request, were being castrated per year in Europe.) This did not, however, stop Martinez from composing, and her fame continued to spread. She was admitted to the Philharmonic Academy of Bologna in 1773.

Martinez also became acquainted with the young Amadeus Mozart in Vienna. Many believe that he modeled his 1768 Mass, K. 139, on one of her works. He also probably wrote his Piano Concerto in D major, K. 175, for her. Throughout her life, Marianne Martinez was very close to Pietro Metastasio, the bachelor who lived with her family. He encouraged her composing and wrote the libretti for two of her oratorios. When Metastasio died, he left his considerable fortune to the Martinez siblings. Their home was already a center for musical evenings which everyone in Vienna wanted to attend, and even visitors from foreign capitals had heard of them. In 1796, Martinez opened a singing school in her home and trained many professional singers. Throughout her life she remained close to Joseph Haydn.

Marianne Martinez was active as a composer, performer, and teacher during Vienna's golden age and her contributions to the city's cultural life were significant. Although most of her music was forgotten in the next century, it has been revived in recent years, and her considerable creative ability has again been recognized. Martinez's reputation, as well as those of many women like her, suffered in the 19th century when it became fashionable to criticize feminine creativity and label it as inferior. She has, however, been restored to the important status which she once occupied in Vienna's golden age and again her compositions are played.


Cohen, Aaron I. International Encyclopedia of Women Composers. 2 vols. NY: Books & Music (USA),1987.

Sadie, Stanley, ed. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 20 vols. NY: Macmillan, 1980.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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