Home » Interviews » Impossible Interviews October 2017: Mozart’s Teacher & Mentor Padre Martini

Impossible Interviews October 2017: Mozart’s Teacher & Mentor Padre Martini


Who is Padre Martini?

Padre Martini or… the Dictator of Music, the Padre di tutti i Maestri or the Father of Music, as many musicians called him in the 18th century.

While many may have a general idea of the importance and of the great influence exerted by the Music School of Naples in the 18th century, few have a right perception of the far greater importance of the Music School of Bologna… greater importance, because most of the greatest composers of the 18th century studied music composition in Bologna and created and cultivated professional connections with the masters in Bologna and with one master of composition, in particular: Padre Martini. Sometimes still remembered as the teacher of Mozart, Padre Martini was considered, in reality, the greatest music authority in Europe and among his pupils there are the children of J.S.Bach and from his teaching tradition famous international composers such as Cherubini and Rossini spread the light of music throughout Europe, the World and the centuries.

Bologna: the factory of musical geniuses of the 18th & the 19th century from Mozart to Rossini, Donizetti and Respighi
Once upon a time there was a factory of musical geniuses and that was the city of Bologna, where many great composers received their music instruction in composition at the highest levels.
Among them, Mozart himself, J.C. Bach, Jommelli, Myslivecek, Sarti (then teacher of the great Cherubini), Vogler (then fundamental music theorist and teacher of von Weber and Meyerbeer) up to Gioacchino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti (both pupils of Stanislao Mattei, the devote pupil, official successor and close friend of Padre Martini) and Ottorino Respighi.

The Martinians: more than 100 pupils for Padre Martini
Padre Martini was considered the most important teacher in music composition in Europe, a learned music historian and musicologist (who had studied almost all the treatises by Guido d’Arezzo) and the greatest master in the art of the counterpoint.
For these reasons Padre Martini was particularly sought after as a teacher of music composition and regarded somehow as the teacher of the teachers in music.
Padre Martini had ca. more than 100 pupils from almost any country of Europe and among them some of the most famous composers and music teachers and theorists in the history of music:
W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
S. Mattei (1750-1825 Italian; official successor of Padre Martini and teacher of G. Rossini and G. Donizetti)
J.C. Bach (1735-1782 German based in London, England; son of J.S. Bach, teacher and model of Mozart)
J. Myslivecek (1737-1781 Bohemian; teacher, mentor and model of Mozart)
G.J. Vogler (1749-1819 German; a rebel pupil of Padre Martini, important music theorist, teacher and mentor of von Weber and Meyerbeer; and through Meyerbeer Vogler’s teachings reached, in part, Wagner)
N. Jommelli (1714-1771 Italian; one the most famous and most gifted pupils of Padre Martini, but with some criticism on Padre Martini’s very strict treatment of polyphonic music; Mozart and his father Leopold met him in 1763; Jommelli exerted a great influence on Stamitz, Wagenseil and von Dittersdorf)
G. Sarti (1729-1802 Italian; friend of Mozart and teacher of the greatL. Cherubini, who managed to solve all the extra-difficult enigma canons composed by Padre Martini)
A.E.M. Grétry (1741-1813 Belgian)
M. Berezovsky (1745-1777 Ukrainian)
G.B. Cirri (1724-1808 Italian; famous cellist, he played cello during the same concerts given by 8-year-old Mozart in London)
G.M.G. Cambini (1746?-1825? Italian; probably pupil of Padre Martini, in Florence founded a quartet with Boccherini in 1767 and in Paris worked with Gossec and had a not happy encounter with Mozart in 1778)
F.L. Gassmann (1729-1774 Bohemian; then friend and close collaborator of Gluck and teacher and mentor of A. Salieri)
V. Righini (1756-1812 Italian; collaborator of Salieri at Vienna Court since 1780, he followed then the path of the strict Gluckian, so to say, nakedstyle like Salieri instead of that enriched by the art of counterpoint; in 1786 helped Salieri, while Salieri was in Paris; Da Ponte and Mozart disliked Righini and for Mozart he was fairly good at writing music, but he was a «great thief» and incapable of well hiding what stolen)

Among the friends, correspondents and admirers of Padre Martini we find the composers Gluck (who was, instead, pupil of G.B. Sammartini in Milan and whose works, beside their long lasting friendship, were not always fully appreciated by Padre Martini and his collaborators), von Dittersdorf,Hasse and the violin virtuoso Lolli.

According to someone, after 1776, also the composer Martín y Soler(1754-1806 Spanish) studied composition with Padre Martini. However, such assertion must be considered rather speculation and not fact, since this period spent in Bologna, studying with Padre Martini, is not clearly demonstrated (see Waisman, Madrid 2007).

Mozart, during his life, maintained, in most cases, an open and friendly behaviour towards all the direct and orthodox pupils of Padre Martini. For this reason, he cultivated, when possible, the friendship of composers such as J.C. Bach, Myslivecek and Sarti (he celebrated, by quoting his opera in his Don Giovanni).

Gluck, Dittersdorf & Padre Martini
On April-May 1763 von Dittersdorf and Gluck reached Bologna for the premiere of Gluck’s Il Trionfo di Clelia for the inauguration of the new opera theatre of Bologna.
On this occasion, Gluck and von Dittersdorf made the acquaintance of both Farinelli and Padre Martini. von Dittersdorf (being a great virtuoso violinist) had the possibility of playing in some public performances in Bologna and, at the same time, of attending, with Gluck, the marvelous performance of some polyphonic music written by Padre Martini. The famous lively account of von Dittersdorf, left in his autobiography, gives an idea of the sincere admiration that both Gluck and von Dittersdorf cultivated towards the art of Padre Martini and this became the basis for a personal friendship.

Here the beautiful account by von Dittersdorf with a lively portrait of old master (Bologna, May 1763):

«Another of our visits was to Padre Martino, the world-renowned dictator of classical music. Ha was nearly as old as Farinelli, and they were bosom friends. Gluck, too, had known him for years, and never passed through Bologna without paying his respects to the “Padre di tutti i Maestri”, as all Kapellmeisters call him to this day.
[…] We were just setting out for the coffee-house, on the afternoon of that very day, when Padre Martino paid us his return visit. He seized the opportunity of asking me to play a concerto in his church, at a great function which was impending. Of course I was to be paid for it… would I be content with the ordinary fee of twelve double ducats? I said I would only play on condition that I was not paid. What I prized, beyond money, was the honour of being selected to play by“the Father of Music”. The good old man thanked me for my“pretty way of thinking of him”, as he called it, and after another half-hour’s conversation, he went away as he came, leaning on the arm of a lay brother, and supported by a stick.
It was soon the talk of all Bologna, that I had been invited by Padre Martino to assist at the grand ceremony, on the first day of the festival “per la visita della Madonna di San Lucca”, and everyone knew that I had refused to be paid, and had promised my services solely for the honour of God.
The day approached for the opening of the festival, which was to be inaugurated by the procession of the miracle-working portrait of the Madonna, said to have been painted by St. Luke. The fête lasted for three days. We went to church to hear Vespers,… the music by Padre Martino. What a gulf between that and Mazzoni’s work! I have never heard sacred music so majestic, so lofty, and so touching!Even Caldara’s composition is far inferior to it. In one Psalm… I think a Magnificat… the Amen was an eight-part fugue, a marvel of artistic elaboration. The effect made by that glorious fugue may be imagined, for the band consisted of one hundred and sixty people, and the chorus was eighty strong.
On the following morning, Gluck and I called on the venerable musician, who had asked us to drink chocolate with him. We were full of admiration for his fine music, i.e., the Vespers which we had heard.
“I think it probable,” said he, “that yesterday’s Vespers and to-day’s High Mass will be my Swan Song, for I am conscious already that my powers, physical and mental, are beginning to fail.”
We expressed our regret that we might, perhaps, never have another opportunity of hearing the eight-part fugue.
“I’ll set that right,” answered the kindly old man. “I will make the fugue do duty for the Amen in the Credo; they are both in the same key, and so far your wishes shall be gratified.”
I did my very best with my concerto, which I played very successfully in the Garduale, for I had carefully prepared myself for it a week before. Soon after I had finished my concerto, I went with Gluck into the body of the church, to hear the Credo and the Amen at a distance. That day, we discovered all sorts of beauties in the eight-part fugue, which had escaped us the day before. We returned home in a high state of exaltation, and sat down to dinner. Afterwards, our landlord came in, bringing with him a good-sized paper parcel with a seal on it, and said:
“Padre Martino sends you both a few pounds of chocolate.”
He had written on the packet with a very shaky pen: “12 libre per il mio caro amico, il Cavagliere Gluck, e 12 libre per il mio caro figliuolo, il Signor Carlo Ditters.”»

1770: Mozart meets Padre Martini
In 1770 Mozart and his father Leopold meet Padre Martini in Bologna.
Thanks to a long stay in Bologna in the summer 1770, Mozart could study music and composition with Padre Martini and with Myslivecek and on 9 October 1770 Mozart passed the examination at the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna and officially became Magister Compositor Accademico Filarmonico di Bologna.

Mozart & Bologna: cover-up or not cover.up?
Since in the archive of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, there are different copies of the exercise that Mozart had to solve, one in the handwriting of Padre Martini and one in the handwriting of Mozart, there were some speculations by various scholars that Padre Martini covered up the mistakes written by Mozart during the examination.
Nonetheless, since Mozart, just 14 years old, passed the examination at the Accademia of Bologna with a «considering the circumstances, sufficient» degree (that’s to say what appears to be a «C-»), other scholars, in conclusion, just think that there was not any kind of cover-up by Padre Martini. The 2 different exercises, in fact, were simply due to the fact that, after the judgement of «sufficient», Padre Martini just solved the composition and showed how a correct exercise had to be written to obtain a judgement «full marks» and then obliged Mozart to rewrite the new correct exercise written by him.
Anyhow, this point is still very controversial, because we don’t know exactly which final version was given to the judges: Mozart’s own one or the copy of Martini’s work?…
This piece is Quaerite primum regnum Dei K. 86.

Here a bizarre video highlighting the mistakes of Mozart and then featuring the correct work by Martini.

Padre Martini vs. Padre Vallotti? Vogler’s own revolution
Thanks to the studies of F.K. Grave and M.G. Grave, we have some important details on how also the composer G.J. Vogler spent some time in Bologna, studying composition with Padre Martini.
However, Vogler was dissatisfied with Padre Martini’s approach to music composition, strictly linked to Fux and without any interest in research. So Vogler decided to move to Padua and to study composition and musical theory with Padre Vallotti (more revolutionary and inquisitive in his studies than Padre Martini), becoming thus somehow his successor.
De facto, we know that Padre Martini did not appreciate either Tartini (the long time collaborator of Padre Vallotti) or Rameau, considering Rameau’s theory «probably» good for the theatre music and all that music that is not Sacred Music, but not good for the Sacred Music. Moreover, Padre Martini considered Rameau’s theory, in general, a form of «destructive music method».
This transition of Vogler from Padre Martini (Bologna) to Padre Vallotti (Padua), well documented also through some letters written by Mozart, then proved to be particular crucial for the difficult steps of the career of Mozart in Mannheim in 1777 and 1778.
Despite what happened with Vogler, it seems that Padre Martini and Padre  Vallotti admired each other and, when Padre Vallotti died, Padre Martini became the musical heir of Padre Vallotti.

Mozart, Padre Martini & the Mannheim Affair (1777-1778)
It is well known, how Mozart, in 1777 and 1778, tried to build a solid musical career in Mannheim, but had to face a strong position held by Vogler there and other difficulties. Despite the enthusiasm and interest of Leopold for the theoretical work of Vogler, Mozart never managed to find a path of dialogue and collaboration with Vogler and one of the reasons for this (according to Mozart’s letters) was the atmosphere of criticism and reciprocal accusation existing between Vogler and Padre Martini.
Despite the presence of Vogler in Mannheim, Mozart and Leopold tried to have the support and the recommendations of Padre Martini for the Court of Mannheim, but the whole scheme miserably failed, even though Padre Martini wrote many letters to the opera singer Raaff, as a possible supporter of Mozart at the Court of Mannheim.
After some time, in what seems to appear a sort of intrigue of some kind, Mozart will discover that all the letters written and sent by Padre Martini from Bologna to Raaff and to the Court the Mannheim just disappeared somehow and somewhere and just never reached their intended destination.
Moreover, it is fact that Padre Martini, in Bologna, in the years 1777 and 1778 was in a very difficult situation in his own town and didn’t have that particular musical and professional prestige he had in 1770 any more, due to a series of serious quarrels with the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, which led him, in the end, to an official act of resignation from the Accademia (29 December 1781).
So the Mannheim scheme of Mozart in the autumn 1777 began under bad auspices and his most revered master and teacher, Padre Martini, who was himself in troubles in his own town, de facto, could not do anything to support his pupil and his steps of career in Mannheim and to avoid all the intrigues behind the possibility of a solid position at the German Court.

K. 222: Padre Martini praises Mozart’s sacred music
On Sunday 5 March 1775 a particular sacred music work by Mozart was performed at the Munich Court Chapel. It’s the K. 222 Offertorium de tempore “Misericordias Domini”.
On 4 September 1776 Mozart sent this motet to Padre Martini at Bologna. Padre Martini praised the work by Mozart highly and asked Mozart to receive a painted portrait of Mozart: the importance of this request is due to the fact that Padre Martini, as historian of music, had the habit of collecting the portraits of the people he considered great and important.

Here the original letter sent by Padre Martini to Mozart from Bologna on 18 December 1776 with a technical judgement of Mozart’s work.

«Together with your most kind letter, which reached me by way of Trent, I received the Motet… It was with pleasure that I studied it from beginning to end, and I can tell you in all sincerity that I was singularly pleased with it, finding in it all that is required by Modern Music: good harmony, mature modulation, a moderate pace in the violins, a natural connexion of the parts and good taste. I am delighted with it and rejoice that since I had the pleasure of hearing you at Bologna on the harpsichord you have made great stride in composition, which must be pursued ever more by practice, for Music is of such nature as to call for great exercise and study as long as one lives.»

This piece by Mozart is famous also for featuring a few sections of a choral melody similar to the one used by Beethoven for his 9th Symphony. Nonetheless, it is sure that Beethoven for his symphony was influenced also by other works which featured music elements similar to that used by Mozart (see Cannabich and others).

Padre Martini and a portrait of Mozart
Only on 22 December 1777 Leopold managed to have a painted portrait of Wolfgang ready to be sent to Padre Martini at Bologna.
It is still one of the best portrait of Wolfgang we have today, a work of a Salzburg painter.


The original portrait of Mozart (1777) for Padre Martini is today in theMuseo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna.

The legacy of Padre Martini
The legacy of Padre Martini was already important in the 18th century, since his teachings were widely spread by his favourite pupil Stanislao Mattei at Bologna, who became the teacher of composition of another two among the greatest composers in history: G. Rossini and G. Donizetti.
Moreover, Padre Martini, beside the famous portraits, left to Bologna an amazing library with very important and extremely rare books on music history, music theory and thousands of music scores. Already Burney in 1770s had the possibility to visit the library of Padre Martini, which had already more than 17.000 books and works of any kind on music. The library of Padre Martini is now at the Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna.
Recently (since 2007) the efforts of Sugar Suvini-Zerboni, Sony and the Accademia degli Astrusi has been making the works by Padre Martini available again, through new printed editions of his works and DVDs.
So far one of the best CD Albums available is the one released by L’arpa festante & l’Ensemble Cantissimo (Ars Musici):

Giovanni Battista Martini: Te Deum – Magnificat – Introitus – Concerti




Various works by Padre Martini are available at IMSLP:
Giovanni Battista Martini: Scores

A) Theory works, letters and other works:

Attestati in difesa del Sig. D. Jacopo Antonio Arrighi, maestri di cappella della Cattedrale di Cremona (1746)
Regola agli organisti per accompagnare il canto fermo (1756)
Storia della Musica 3 voll. (1757-61, 1770, 1781)
Onomasticum (1763)
Dissertatio de usu progressionis geometricae in musica (1767)
Compendio della teoria de’ numeri per uso del musico (1769)
Esemplare ossia saggio fondamentale pratico di contrappunto sopra il canto fermo 2 voll. (1774-75)
Lettere del Sig. Francesco Maria Zanotti, del padre G.M., min. con., del padre Giovenale Sacchi (1782)

B) Compositions by Padre Martini:

• Opera Theatre:
Azione Teatrale (Intermezzo: 1726)
La Dirindina (Intermezzo: 1731)
L’impresario delle Canarie (Intermezzo: 1744)
Il maestro di musica (Intermezzo: 1746)
Don Chisciotte (Intermezzo: 1746)
• various pieces of music for the theatre

• Oratorios:
L’assunzione di Salomone al trono d’Israello (1734)
S. Pietro (1738)
S. Pietro (1739)
Il sagrificio d’Abramo (sketches)
Deposizione della Croce (lost)

• Sacred Music:
• 12 Masses 4 v. with instruments
• 1 Requiem
• 2 Masses 8 v. with instruments
• 3 Masses 4 v. capp.
• 1 and 1 Missa pro defunctis with organ
• 3 Masses 8 v. capp.
• 1 Messa de’ Morti with organ
• 5 Masses Brevi 8 v. with instruments
• 7 Masses unfin. 2-3 v. capp.
• 3 Kyrie
        • 2 Gloria
        • 12 Credo
        • 40 sections of Proprium Missae with instruments
• 101 Introitus
• 25 Graduali
• 26 Offertorium
• 32 Communiones capp.
• music for funerals and the Holy Week (54 Responsoria Hebdomadae Sanctae)
• 198 Psalms with instruments (of which 51 with double choir)
• 26 Magnificat
        • 5 Nunc dimittis
        • vespri, notturni, mattutini, inni, sequenze, antifone, litanie, mottetti
• 2 Te Deum
        • 1 Requiem
• 9 Cantate spirituali a solo with instruments
• 1 Litaniae atque Antiphonae 4 v. cum organo et Instrum. ad lib. op. I (1734)

  • Works for Orchestra:
• various symphonies
• concerto vl., ob., vcl. and strings
• 6 concertos harpsichord and strings
• concerto vl. and strings
• concerto vcl. and strings
• concerto piano and strings

• Chamber Music:
• sonatas vcl.
• sonatas 2 fl.
• sonatas vl. and 4 tr.
• various arias, cantatas and canons
• 12 Sonate d’intavolatura per l’organo e il cembalo (1742)
• 6 Sonate per l’organo e il cembalo (1747)
Duetti da camera a diverse voci (1763)
• 52 canons 2-4 v.


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