|Notes on the Program
The circumstances joining these three composers speak to us about both the changing styles of music and music-making in late eighteenth-century Vienna and, specifically, the roles women played in that transition. Both Marianne von Martinez and Marianna von Auenbrugger had close ties to Joseph Haydn: the first as his one-time student who later hosted frequent musical soirées attended by Vienna’s most illustrious musicians and intellectuals; the latter as a highly-regarded pianist to whom (along with her sister Katharina) Haydn dedicated six sonatas (Hob. XVI/35-39 and 20) published in 1781.
Little information has come down to us of Marianna von Auenbrugger, other than accounts (including Haydn’s own) testifying to her gifts as a pianist. She died of consumption in her early twenties, and her Sonata in E-flat major appears to be her only published composition. We know much more of Marianne von Martinez’s extraordinarily full life as a musician: Charles Burney offers a recollection of her impressive gifts as a youthful singer, harpsichordist, and composer in The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands, and United Provinces (1775). She went on to compose as many as 200 works, including oratorios, cantatas, piano concertos, a symphony, and numerous keyboard sonatas. Admitted to the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna in 1773, she offered as entrance pieces a psalm and a Miserere. Perhaps it was one of these that Burney heard:
She obliged me with a Latin motet, for a single voice, which was grave and
solemn, without languor or heaviness; and then played me a very pretty
harpsichord sonata of her own, which was spirited, and full of brilliant
Later in life, her household was home not only to her famous salon (where she played four-hand sonatas with their composer, Mozart) but also to a school of singing that she founded.
That neither woman achieved greater professional standing as a composer may have as much to do with the traditional expectations and strictures imposed upon female musicians as with talent. In the previous century and a half, women had made vast inroads in some quarters as performers—thanks in large part to the rise of opera and the demand for accomplished singers, especially sopranos. However, outside of a few enclaves (early seventeenth-century Venice, for instance), women were rarely accepted or supported as serious composers. Celebrity as a creative artist, such as it was, usually came early in life to a few women from aristocratic or middle-class musical families, almost always hand in hand with renown as a singer or keyboard player.
By all reports, both Marianne von Martinez and Marianna von Auenbrugger attracted attention initially as performers, within a milieu that not only permitted but encouraged a degree of musical proficiency among the daughters of middle-class families. A correspondent’s observation in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of October 22, 1800 describes a point of etiquette that had existed for many years:
Every well-bred girl, whether she has talent or not, must learn to play the
piano or to sing: first of all, it’s fashionable; secondly (here the spirit of
speculation comes in), it’s the most convenient way for her to put herself
forward attractively in society and thereby, if she is lucky, make an
advantageous matrimonial alliance, particularly a moneyed one.
Arthur Loesser cites this remark in his wry but slightly dated Men, Women and Pianos (1954), where he points out that as a social grace music-making had advantages over other pursuits (including drawing, needlework, and embroidery) since “it could be shown off best while actually being accomplished.” The piano was the instrument of choice for several reasons: its very acquisition as a home furnishing signaled a burgher’s prosperity; it was the ideal accompanying instrument; and (in Loesser’s words) it “enabled females to preserve a maximum of decorum in the exercise of their musical efforts.”
Other contemporary accounts confirm that the great majority of pianists in late eighteenth-century Vienna were women and girls. Not surprisingly, in what must have been at least a moderately progressive environment—where Nanette Stein Streicher presided over one of the most prominent piano workshops and the Empress Maria Theresa ruled for four decades (1740-80)—several women attained a high level of keyboard artistry. These included, aside from Martinez and the sisters Auenbrugger, Barbara Ployer (with whom Mozart played his sonata for two pianos in D major), the Countess Wilhelmine Thun (possessing, according to Charles Burney, “as great skill in music as any person of distinction I ever knew”), Josefa Auernhammer (who, Mozart said, “plays delightfully”), the blind pianist and composer Maria Theresia von Paradis, Marianna von Genzinger, and Therese Jansen Bartolozzi. For these last two artists Haydn wrote, among other pieces, three of his greatest sonatas: for the former, the E-flat major sonata, Hob. XVI/49 (59)1; for the latter, those in C major, Hob. XVI/50 (60), and E-flat major, Hob. XVI/52 (62).
To ears accustomed to these familiar late works by Haydn, the two sonatas by Marianne von Martinez presented here will sound old-fashioned by comparison. Indeed, both were published in 1765, when the composer was 21. Their musical syntax closely resembles Haydn’s own in several of his earliest keyboard compositions, none of which can be reliably dated to any time before the early 1760s. Martinez composed her sonatas in the prevailing Viennese galant fashion: three movements in binary form, the first in brisk duple meter, the second in a related key and slower triple meter, the last a light-hearted minuet. Of the two works, the sonata in A major is the more accomplished. Angular dotted rhythms and florid triplet figurations give the first movement an appealing energy, while the languid second movement, in A minor, is a touching essay in the “expressive style” (empfindsamer style) cultivated by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and others. Throughout both sonatas, textures are spare, inviting modest elaboration from the former upon the customary repeats.
It is likely that Haydn shared some of his own sonatas and divertimenti with Marianne von Martinez, for—as biographer Georg August Griesinger wrote a half century later, drawing upon his own conversations with the elderly composer—these pieces “took into account the need and capability of his students.” Griesinger also recounts the charming story of Martinez’s early training, with its immensely important consequences for both student and teacher. Haydn had moved into a “wretched little attic room without a stove” not long after his voice broke and he was dismissed, at age eighteen, from the Choir School at St. Michael’s Church. The famous poet Metastasio lived on the third floor of the same house with the Martinez family, and presumably engaged Haydn to teach Marianne in return for free board. Haydn also was hired to accompany voice lessons taught by Nicola Porpora, the aged Italian composer, who may also have been Marianne’s singing teacher. Haydn, by his own testimony, “profited greatly with Porpora in singing, in composition, and in the Italian language.” He also made acquaintance with the first-floor resident, the dowager Princess Esterházy, mother of the two princes whom Haydn would later serve as Kapellmeister for much of his career. Upon Metastasio’s death in 1782, the Martinez family inherited the poet’s large estate, enabling Marianne to establish the salon for which she was renowned.
Haydn was already in the employ of the Esterházy court when he assembled the six sonatas he dedicated to the “Schwestern v. Auenbrugger.” Haydn’s remarks in the exchange of letters with his new publisher Artaria regarding these works confirm the high esteem in which he held Katharina and Marianna:
I send you herewith the corrected proofs of all 6 Sonatas….The approval of the
Demoiselles von Auenbrugger is most important to me, for their way of playing
and genuine insight into music equal those of the greatest masters. Both deserve
to be known throughout Europe through the public newspapers. (February 25,
Within two years Artaria issued a single sonata in E-flat major by Marianna, together with an ode by her teacher, the court composer Antonio Salieri. It is not clear whether publication preceded her untimely death on August 25, 1782. The indication on the cover, Primo et ultimo di Lei Prodotto (“her first and last work”) beneath her name (in the italianate spelling Marianna D’Auenbrugg)—together with the depiction of a grieving cherub next to a female silhouette, a tomb in the distance, and the mournful text of Salieri’s ode—all strongly suggest that publication was intended as a memorial tribute.
Auenbrugger’s “first work” is almost Mozartean in its melodic fecundity: in the exposition of the first movement, no fewer than seven discrete themes are presented. Many are re-stated, and new ones are added in a spacious, hybrid development/ recapitulation (including one bearing passing resemblance to a theme in Haydn’s own E-flat major “Auenbrugger” sonata, Hob. XVI/38). The second movement, in A-flat major, offers a delicate cantabile melody expanded over fourteen measures, after which it gives way to a quietly syncopated figure whose rhythm is recalled in a dramatic passage at the end of the development. The opening theme is subtly varied in the recapitulation. A jaunty eight-measure tune kicks off the spirited final movement, once again filled with a host of attractive motives; after lingering in a C minor episode, each half of which is repeated, the movement returns one last time to the rondo tune, and concludes with a flourish.)
Haydn’s Auenbrugger sonatas were his first to be issued by Artaria, Vienna’s leading music publisher. He had previously published two other sets of six sonatas, in 1774 (dedicated to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy) and in 1776. Like its predecessors, the Auenbrugger group begins with an “easy” work (here, the popular C major sonata, (XVI/35) and ends with a “difficult” one (in C minor, XVI/20), begun in 1771; it is unclear why Haydn withheld it from publication for nine years). The two sonatas heard here, the second and third of the set, represent similar aesthetic extremes. The sonata in C-sharp minor is one of Haydn’s most arresting creations, from the violence of its opening unison utterance to the more subtle surprises of its menuetto finale. As several critics have observed, the strength of the first movement derives not only from its sudden dynamic shifts and abrupt modulations, but also from the composer’s economy of presentation: almost every gesture and motive can be found in the first six measures. The second movement departs from what by this time was Haydn’s standard fast-slow-fast design. It is, instead, a tightly-knit scherzando in A major, built on strophic variations of a motive used elsewhere in the Auenbrugger set as well (Hob. XVI/39/I). The formal unpredictability of the C-sharp minor sonata extends to its concluding minuet (an occurrence much less common in 1780 than it was in 1765), whose moodiness is suddenly circumvented by a trio in the parallel major. Here, too, Haydn utilizes pre-existent material: hidden within the right hand line is the “Night-watchman’s Song,” a folk tune Haydn employed in previous works.
In its outer movements, the well-known Sonata in D major replaces weightiness with buoyancy and shade with light. Struck by the brilliance of the work’s opening measures, the suspensions in the rather formulaic development, and the formal archaism of its second movement (a sarabande), some commentators have declared this sonata reminiscent of Domenico Scarlatti. The effervescent presto finale, marked innocentemente, follows upon the final chord of the middle movement without pause. Akin to the second movement of Hob. XVI/36 in its strophic structure, it is light-years removed in outlook and affect.