Victoria Martino merges worlds of visual art, music

In the past year, Victoria Martino has experienced many synchronicities, or what she and her late husband, Konrad Oberhuber, called “jokes of angels.”

The Mozart marathon Martino had planned in honor of Oberhuber fell, unintentionally, on the couple’s wedding anniversary, and Martino’s latest series at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, “The Age of Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism,” began on Oberhuber’s birthday, March 31.

In “The Age of Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism,” which continues through the end of the month, Martino, an internationally celebrated musician and art historian, explores the parallels between 19th century European art and music. Accompanied by James Lent and Gabriel Arregui, Martino performs major violin and piano works that correspond with her illustrated lectures. Lectures include compositions by Mendelssohn, Debussy, Schumann and others.

A Harvard graduate, Martino moved to La Jolla from Maine at a young age.

“All of my schooling, from first to 12th grade, was done in La Jolla,” Martino said. “After traveling the world and living in Austria and Tokyo, it was La Jolla that my husband saw as the most exotic, beautiful place in the world. He had always wanted to live here at some point.”

Originally, Martino and Oberhuber met at Harvard, where he taught and she received her undergraduate degree. He eventually left the United States to be executive director of the Albertina museum in Vienna, where the two re-met. From 1991 to 2000, the couple lived in Austria, leaving in 2000 to move to Tokyo, where Oberhuber taught as a guest professor of art history. After their daughter was born, they moved to San Diego, where Martino’s family still lives.

For 15 years, Martino and Oberhuber collaborated in the arts: He lectured on art history, and she performed music from the same time periods and regions. The couple hoped to prove the parallels between the arts, and for Martino, whose mastery thesis was on the relationship between the visual arts, music and literature, it came easy.

“Researching the music was wonderful, because some of it was really unknown to the general public,” Martino said.

The couple began a relationship with the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, initially beginning their lecture/music series by covering five centuries in five weeks, moving at warp speed. Following up, they focused on only one century per series, starting with the Renaissance and subsequently moving to the 17th and 18th centuries.

By the time they had reached the 19th century, in spring 2007, Oberhuber had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“My husband was very organized, and he had prepared the 19th century series in advance,” Martino said. “We asked the Athenaeum to postpone the series until the fall.”

Fall came, and when Oberhuber passed away, the series was canceled. Martino took care of unfinished business, finishing up an article Oberhuber had been working on for the International Foundation for Art Research and tying up loose ends.

On June 14, 2008, Martino performed all 26 of Mozart’s sonatas in a marathon in honor of the composer and her husband, playing music for eight hours straight.

“It fell on our wedding anniversary,” Martino said. “It was so appropriate, because the first time that I had done this marathon in 2006, my husband really held it together. When I would break to drink water, he would entertain the audience. This time, I tried to do that. It was a true tribute to my husband.”

Comparing herself to a phoenix rising out of the ashes, Martino is now in the midst of an even bigger tribute: She is continuing the art/music lecture on the 19th century without Oberhuber.

“This was a side to me that had become dormant,” she said, “and now I’m bringing it back to life as I also honor the memory of my husband.”

‘The Age of Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism’

  • April 14: The Generation of Wagner and Verdi
  • April 21: The Generation of Brahms
  • April 28: The Generation of Debussy
  • Athenaeum Music and Arts Library
  • 1008 Wall St., La Jolla
  • $19 per lecture
  • (858) 454-5872