Personalities | Giovanni Battista Martini | Classical Era | Classical

(Jo-van’-ne Bat-tes’-ta Mär-te’-ne) 1706–84
Italian theorist and composer

Padre Martini, as he was always known, was the most influential theorist and musical thinker of his time. He was born in Bologna, traditionally a centre of learning, where he studied with his father and leading musicians before entering a monastery. He returned to Bologna as organist and then as maestro di cappella at San Francesco, and was ordained in 1729. He composed much music, conservative in style, had many students, wrote an extended history of music and several theoretical works, and conducted a lively correspondence on musical matters with composers and others (some 6,000 letters survive); J. C. Bach, Grétry, Jommelli and Mozart are among those who had lessons with him. He was revered as the ultimate arbiter on matters musical. Burney wrote that, ‘upon so short an acquaintance, I never liked any man more; and I felt as little reserve with him after a few hours’ conversation, as with an old friend or beloved brother’. Martini assembled a large library and a fine collection of musicians’ portraits, which are preserved today in the Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale in Bologna.

Recommended Recording:
Organ Works, Ennio Cominetti (MDG)

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