Austria in Aldersbrook

Marianna_Martines,_Pupil_of_P._Metastasio;_born_in_Vienna,_4th_day_of_May_1744,_Member_Academia_FilarmonicaMarianna Martines

Redbridge-based Valentine Singers are celebrating 25 years of choral performances. Their anniversary year begins in grand style in Aldersbrook this month with Music from Vienna. Christine Gwynn reports

To mark the start of our 25th anniversary, Valentine Singers will be hosting a concert of Music from Vienna at St Gabriel’s Church in Aldersbrook. We will be joined by Writtle Singers, the excellent Jericho Ensemble (led by Tina Bowles) and a superb line-up of professional soloists: Anita Wilson, Madeleine Sexton, Bene’t Coldstream and Alistair Kirk. As conductor, I will lead these combined forces in a programme of music by Beethoven, Haydn and Martines.  

If you’re even remotely familiar with classical music, the first two composers will be household names, but maybe not the third. Marianna Martines was born in Vienna in 1744 and spent her whole life there, growing up in apartments in the Michaelerhaus by the central church of St Michael and very close to the famous Spanish Riding School. Other residents in the capacious property included the poet and librettist Metastasio (who played a key part in the education of Marianna and her siblings), the acclaimed singing teacher Nicola Porpora and, for a while, a young, struggling composer who lived in the attic, one Joseph Haydn, who was Marianna’s first piano teacher.

Martines was highly esteemed in her lifetime as a pianist, singer and composer; Mozart was a regular visitor to the family’s musical soirées, often playing piano duets with her.

The work which we shall be performing in Aldersbrook is Marianna Martines’ 1773 Dixit Dominus, a setting of Psalm 110, on the strength of which she became the first female composer admitted (since its foundation in 1666) to the prestigious Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna – a 250th anniversary worth celebrating!  

Though Martines was an active and highly accomplished performer and composer, she never sought an appointed position; it would have been unacceptable for a woman in her social class to seek such employment. Her last known public appearance was on 23 March 1808, attending a performance of Haydn’s oratorio Die Schöpfung in tribute to the composer. She died on 13 December 1812.

The other works in the programme are Haydn’s sparkling Te Deum, written for Empress Maria Theresa, Beethoven’s glorious Mass in C and his serene and poignant Elegischer Gesang, a short elegy composed for the wife of a friend. 

If you haven’t been to St Gabriel’s before, you are in for a treat. It is light and warm, with good, accessible facilities and comfy chairs; refreshments will be available at the interval. The church is on the corner of Park Road and Aldersbrook Road, opposite Wanstead Flats.

Valentine Singers will perform Music from Vienna at St Gabriel’s Church, Aldersbrook on 25 March from 7.30pm (adults: £18; students and those on benefits: £10; under-16s: free; booking required). Visit wnstd.com/vs or call 01277 364 772 

Author: Editor