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Music Review - The Organ The Organ

Giovan Battista Martini: Liturgical Works vols. 2 & 3

Giovan Battista Martini: Liturgical Works vols. 2 & 3. Doblinger

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Padre Giovanni Martini 1706 – 1784, a Franciscan friar in Bologna, became one of the 18th century's most respected and learned music theoreticians but, as this publication demonstrates he was also an accomplished practitioner whose knowledge sprang from daily engagement with the instrument and its usage in the Church over a period of at least twenty years. With this edition, Doblinger have undertaken the first modern publication of Martini's oeuvre. Little has appeared before, but given that his works occupy six manuscript volumes, this represents the most important collection of Italian liturgical organ music from the period. The preface poses an interesting question namely why bother to write down music that other organists would have been expected to improvise – offertoires, elevations, post-communions, versets and so on? Perhaps the answer lies in Martini's vocation as a teacher and that the pieces were intended to provide models for others. Curious however is that, unlike his other compositions for voice, apart from isolated examples, these pieces should have been forgotten until only very recently. From a practical point of view, one could only wish the modern Anglican liturgy had the requisite slots in which to fit this music since to play these pieces at the appropriate moments within the service would be a sheer delight particularly the Elevazioni and Benedizioni. Most of the pieces can be played on instruments of modest resources, previous remarks on Viennese Organ Music from the 1750's apply here, and are again of Grade 5-6 standard though some Toccate require careful fingerwork and execution of ornaments. Altogether, they are beautifully written commentaries on the various liturgical events, discreet yet memorable and warmly recommended.