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Jean-Paul-Égide Martini


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    Plaisir d'amour - Charlotte Church, Sian Edwards
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    Martini: Plaisir d'amour - Barbara Hendricks, Michel Dalberto
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Johann Paul Aegidius Martini was a prominent composer in the Classical period known primarily for his operas, songs (chansons and romances), and sacred vocal works.
He appears to have been instrumental in the establishment of several innovations, among which were the use of obbligato keyboard (instead of basso continuo) in song accompaniments and expanding the scoring in French military music to six parts, as was the tradition in Germany. Martini's opera Henry IV also broke down barriers: in the Comédie-Italienne tradition its historically based events, with a king as a main character, was a novelty for its time, enabling other composers to delve into previously proscribed areas in their opera plots. While these innovations may have been relatively minor, Martini did compose several works of lasting impact: his opera L'amoureux de quinze ans (1771) was enormously popular and still highly regarded, and his "Plaisir d'amour (Romance du chevrier)" is still a popular song, really his only work appearing regularly in recitals and on recordings.
Johann Paul Aegidius Martini (originally Schwartzendorf) was born in the Bavarian city of Freistadt on August 31, 1741. His father was a talented organist who served as Johann's first teacher. From age 10 Johann studied music at the Jesuit-run seminary in Neuburg, where he also served as organist.
Martini became organist at the Franciscan Convent in Freiburg in 1758, while studying at the local university.
Two years later he traveled to Nancy, France, changed his surname to Martini, and began to build his career with the assistance of patrons Stanislaus I (exiled Polish king) and the Marchioness of Desarmoises. In 1764 Martini traveled to Paris where he established connections with royalty and soon gained broad popularity with works like his 1774 opera Henry IV, written to mark Louis XVI's accession to the throne.
Soon he was appointed to several prestigious musical posts, including director of the Théâtre de Feydeau (1789). Political events threatened his security for a time, but by 1795 he was in good standing with the new government, assuming duties as inspector of the Paris Conservatory from 1798-1802. He also served on the faculty there as professor of composition during this period. Martini remained active in his later years, largely writing church music. After the 1814 Restoration of Louis XVIII in France, Martini was appointed Superintendant of the King's Music. He died in Paris on February 10, 1816.


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