Rutgers University and The Raritan Players explore the eighteenth-century salon and its music


February 21, 2020

Rutgers University and The Raritan Players explore the eighteenth-century salon and its music

Marianna Martines, an eighteenth-century composer, singer, keyboardist, and salon hostess, is the focus of a concert with commentary


New Brunswick, NJ – An interdisciplinary conference with an innovative musical program is set to take place at Rutgers University on April 2–3, 2020. The conference, titled The Salon and the Senses in the Long Eighteenth Century, features scholars and performers seeking to understand the ways that salons, held in elite homes and led by women, shaped their cultural environments. The conference will feature The Raritan Players in the concert In the Salon of Marianna Martines, exploring the music in the Viennese salon of a remarkable eighteenth-century woman. Martines was a student of Franz Joseph Haydn and Nicolo Porpora, and she played keyboard duets with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. She was also a composer in her own right, and this concert features music by Martines, little known today, as well as works by these other figures.


All events are free and open to the public.


The concert In the Salon of Marianna Martines is part of a series of salon-based programs undertaken by The Raritan Players, whose playing been called “simply mesmerizing” (Early Music America) and “an unexpected treasure” (American Record Guide). Named for the historic Raritan Valley, The Raritan Players seek to revive lost musical repertoire and performance practices from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—especially those associated with women. Their award-winning programs are based on the work of the group’s founder and leader, Rebecca Cypess (Department of Music, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers).


The concert, to be played on period instruments, will feature the Raritan Players’ core ensemble together with guest artists to fill out the large orchestra for which Marianna Martines wrote. In addition to a keyboard sonata and a cantata composed by Martines herself, the concert will feature the concerto for two keyboards and orchestra by Mozart, played by Rebecca Cypess on harpsichord and Yi-heng Yang on fortepiano. Also featured will be soprano Sonya Headlam, singing cantatas by Martines and her teacher Porpora. Cypess will provide historical commentary throughout the program. “It is amazing that Martines wrote so many beautiful works, and these survive today, yet so few of them are ever performed,” said Dr. Cypess. “The cantata that Sonya Headlam will sing is a remarkable work with a robust scoring and sensitive text-setting. It is wonderful to participate in the revival of the music by Martines, whose reputation as a composer, keyboardist, and singer extended across Europe during her own lifetime.”


The conference The Salon and the Senses in the Long Eighteenth Century is the outgrowth of an interdisciplinary research group led by Rebecca Cypess and Jennifer Jones (Department of History, School of Arts and Sciences) and supported by the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers. The conference brings together scholars from across the United States and Europe to consider the institution of the Enlightenment salon—social gatherings led by women that featured conversation, games, and engagement with a variety of arts and sciences. Conference presentations address the roles of objects, images, smells, and sounds in the salon. Rather than looking for evidence about salons only in written texts, conference participants seek to understand the salon as a multimedia, multi-sensory experience.


During the eighteenth century, few women had access to formal education, and the lines between the public and private spheres were being drawn with increasing rigidity, with women often discouraged from participation in public life. The salon offered elite women an opportunity to engage with the intellectual and artistic worlds around them—even shaping those worlds through the social network that gathered in their salons. Some salons hosted the leading minds of Europe—figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Samuel Johnson, among many others. In the salon, women socialized and conversed with such figures on all the topics of the day, influencing their thinking and affecting their intellectual and cultural environments.


Other noteworthy aspects of the conference are a theatrical workshop to be led by Professor Christopher Cartmill (Department of Theater, Mason Gross, Rutgers) on April 2 at 2:00 p.m. and a “pop-up salon,” an immersive salon experience designed with high-school and college-level pedagogy in mind, at 1:30 p.m. on April 3.


The conference will begin with at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 2 in the Mabel Smith Douglass Room of Douglass Library, Douglass Campus, 8 Chapel Drive, New Brunswick, New Jersey. The concert will take place in the same room at 7:30 p.m. with a reception following. All events on Friday, April 3 will take place on the College Avenue Campus. The presentations on Friday will be held in the Academic Building West Wing, 6th floor, 15 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, New Jersey. The “pop-up salon” will be held in the chapel of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, 35 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, New Jersey.


Event co-sponsors:


  • Office of Research and Innovation, Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Rutgers University
  • Center for Cultural Analysis, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
  • Department of French, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
  • Department of Music, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University
  • Department of History, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
  • Rutgers University Libraries
  • Department of German, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University


For more information please contact Rebecca Cypess: [email protected].

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