Benedetto Marcello: Notes and Commentary

Benedetto Giacomo Marcello was an Italian composer, writer, advocate, magistrate, and teacher. Born in Venice, he was a member of a noble family and his compositions are frequently referred to as Patrizio Veneto. He was a younger contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi in Venice, and his instrumental music exhibits a Vivaldian flavor.

Benedetto Marcello composed church music, oratorios, hundreds of solo cantatas, duets, sonatas, concertos, and sinfonias. He was a younger contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi in Venice, and his instrumental music has a Vivaldian flavor. His music is “characterized by imagination and a fine technique and includes both counterpoint and progressive, galant features” (Grove, 1994).

He enjoyed some fame during his life and to a great extent he’s remembered today for his Estro poetico-armonico (Venice, 1724–1727), a musical setting for voices, figured bass (a continuo notation), and occasional solo instruments, of the first fifty Psalms, as paraphrased in Italian by his friend G. Giustiniani. They were much admired by Charles Avison, who with John Garth brought out an edition with English words (London, 1757). Although Marcello wrote an opera called La Fede riconosciuta and produced it in Vicenza in 1702, he had little sympathy with this form of composition.

With the poet Antonio Conti he wrote a series of experimental long cantatas: a duet, Il Timoteo, then five monologues, Cantone, Lucrezia, Andromaca, Arianna abandonnata, and finally Cassandra.

Marcello vented his opinions on the state of musical drama at the time in the satirical pamphlet Il teatro alla moda, published anonymously in Venice in 1720. This little work, which was frequently reprinted, is amusing and a valuable contribution to the history of opera. He lived from July 31 or August 1, 1686, to July 24, 1739.—Excerpted from Wikipedia

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