Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784)
Sei Sonate d’intavolatura per l’organo e il cembalo, Bologna, 1747
The new collection entitled Sonate per l'organo e il cembalo, was issued from the presses of Della Volpe in 1747, with a dedication to Monsignor Gian Carlo Molinari. The print consists of six sonatas, and this time the instrumental destination is expressly stated by Padre Martini: the odd-numbered sonatas are intended for the harpsichord, while the even-numbered ones are written for the organ. Yet the differences are substantially of another kind: the most rigorous counterpoint has been banished and Martini’s writing is exclusively in keeping with the pleasantness and refinement of the galant style. Free rein is given to experimentation with gracious tones, animated rhythms, brief and sinuous melodic lines. Though these pieces still require remarkable agility on the part of the performer, they never stoop to mere artifice or virtuosity for its own sake. This has caused not a few scholars to turn up their noses, obtusely accustomed as they are to seeing in the Franciscan father only the unmoveable high priest of the strictest polyphony. This, despite the presence in these six sonatas of the most elaborate melodic designs and the most sprightly and seductive rhythms, all of which reveal a highly developed mastery of composition. Above all, one is struck by his vivacious imagination, the driving force behind his writing. Martini succeeds in uniting in a single coherent structure brief ideas, intimations of a thoroughly Italian cantabile line, and flashes of fiery rhythmic motifs. Here he juxtaposes elegant courtly dances against an irrepressible vivacity typical of the baroque concerto.