Giovanni Battista Martini (1706 – 1784), also known as
Padre Martini, was an Italian musician.
Grandly and misleadingly called "one of the most famous
figures in eighteenth century music" by
over-specialized musicologists, Giovanni Battista
Martini was an important personality in the narrow
confines of Italian music and counterpoint pedagogy.
Described as both affable and arrogant, Martini was a
supportive and much sought-after teacher; his students
included the young Mozart and J.C. Bach.
Martini enjoyed substantial early musical training, but
at age 15 he decided he wanted to become a monk and was
sent to a monastery. This residency lasted about a
year; in late 1722 he returned to his native Bologna to
become an organist at the church of St. Francesco. In
1725 he became that church's maestro di cappella, a
position he would hold until near the end of his long
life. He was ordained a priest in 1729.
Padre Martini's first published works appeared in 1734,
a collection called Litaniae atque antiphonae finales
Beatae Virginis Mariae; after this liturgical
beginning, Martini would eventually publish three
collections of secular music.
Among his honors were election to the Academy of the
Bologna Institute of Science in 1758, the Bologna
Philharmonic Academy (in the same year), and the
Arcadian Academy in Rome in 1776. He was offered jobs
at the Vatican and perhaps in Padua, but Martini
preferred his employment in Bologna; indeed, his trips
out of town were few and far between.
He was a hard worker and easily likable, inspiring
great affection in personalities as different as Mozart
and Charles Burney. Yet he was also in many respects an
adamant musical reactionary, resisting French
innovations in music theory and the progressive
tendencies of even his fellow-countryman Tartini (with
whom he nonetheless remained on cordial terms). His
fees from teaching counterpoint and singing enabled him
to amass a huge personal music library (perhaps 17,000
volumes by 1770), as well as a collection of 300
portraits of musicians; eventually, getting one's
portrait into Martini's hands was equivalent to a
modern Hollywood celebrity having "arrived" by getting
a set of footprints onto the Walk of Fame.
Martini wrote extensively on ancient Greek music and
plainchant (which he considered to be a particularly
expressive form of music), and published a volume of
excerpts for the teaching of advanced counterpoint. His
own music, however, was largely homophonic, skewed to
high voices. A major exception to this tendency was his
1742 Sonate d'intavolatura, which employed a rich
counterpoint suggesting a familiarity with Bach.
Although originally written for Viol a de Gamba and
Continuo, I created this arrangement for Violin &