One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Brahms Symphony 4 Dvorak Symphony 9
Peter Aronsky (piano) Les Délices du Piano"
IL Carnevale di Venezia Clarinet with orchestra

Sinfonie Concertanti


TUDOR RECORDS


an inspirational performance


An indispensable acquisition


The finest we have had in years


bewitching sound


Simply amazing


A splendid addition


One of the most enjoyable


quite superb!


utterly essential


A wonderful introduction


An outstanding CD


cheer-raising


One of the finest versions


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739)
Estro Poetico-Armonico
Sonata a 3 in c minor, op. 2,2 [11:58]
Salmo XIV: O Signor, chi sarŕ mai [8:52]
Salmo XXI: Volgi, mio Dio, deh volgi un de' tuoi guardi [28:48]
Salmo XXVIII: In mezzo alle miserie ond'io son cinto [10:35]
Salmo XXVII: A te, Signor, che mio sostegno sei/ [15:09]
Caroline Pelon (soprano), Mélodie Ruvio (contralto), Antonio Magarelli (Hebrew chants)
L’Amoroso/Guido Balestracci
rec. 2016, Auditorium of the Museo Diocesano, Molfetta (Bari), Italy. DDD
Texts and translations included
ARCANA A441 [75:22]

Today Antonio Vivaldi is undoubtedly the most popular Italian composer from the first half of the 18th century. Every year a number of discs with his music are released and his name frequently appears on concert programmes. By comparison, his compatriot Benedetto Marcello receives much less attention. His name is far better known than his music. That was quite different in the past. Soon after his death Vivaldi was completely forgotten, and was only rediscovered in the 20th century, as part of the revival of early music. In contrast, Marcello was the best-known Italian baroque composer until the early 20th century. His reputation largely depended on his collection of 50 Psalm settings, which he published between 1724 and 1726.

Marcello was born into an aristocratic family, his father being both a violinist and a politician, a senator in the Venetian government. His mother was an artist and a poet. It was perhaps under her influence that Marcello valued the poetic use of words very highly. Like his father he was active in public life, as a lawyer and administrator. His aristocratic roots prevented him from being active as a professional musician and composer but he presented himself as a nobile dilettante.

Marcello published a treatise under the title Il teatro alla moda in which he dealt with the bad habits prevalent in the theatre of the time. He wanted to reform the style of singing and clear away exaggerated ornamentation. One could consider him an early advocate of naturalness, like Gluck and Tartini later in the 18th century. His ideals come to the fore in this collection of Psalm settings. They are made up of sections of a kind we also know from opera, such as arias and recitatives, but the arias are rather short and dacapo sections are omitted altogether. Marcello did not choose to set the Latin texts of the Vulgata, the then common translation of the Bible. He rather preferred versifications in the vernacular by the poet Girolamo Ascanio Giustiniani who, like Marcello, was from Venice.

Most of the Psalms are scored for solo voice(s) and basso continuo. The scores are available on the internet, at the Petrucci Music Library. Here we find the addition “(soloist and chorus)” However, it is questionable whether the polyphonic episodes should be sung by a choir, even a small one, as these Psalm settings were clearly intended for performance in oratories or private academies and it is unlikely that such performances involved choirs. Only two of the Psalms include parts for strings: Nos. 21 (recorded here) and 50. These parts are indicated as being intended for violette. It is not entirely clear which instruments are meant, but Guido Balestracci believes viole da gamba are the most obvious option. Marcello apparently valued the viola da gamba, as he composed a set of six sonatas for two cellos or viole da gamba. The programme of this disc opens with one sonata from this set. Moreover, he described the violette as “instruments that, when played by an expert hand, can easily induce emotions and sadness”. This description fits the viola da gamba pretty well.

It is also understandable that Marcello used them for his setting of Psalm 21 (22 in the King James Bible and other Protestant translations). This lament of King David has always been closely connected to Passiontide, as Jesus quotes this Psalm at the Cross. It is the longest, as well as the most expressive and dramatic, work on this disc. The viols play a particularly notable role in the expression of the text, for instance in the sixth section: “I am surrounded by enemies, like ferocious bulls that proudly accompany me in this folly. (...) My courage dissolves like water, my bones are all shaken”. It is preceded by an equally emotional long recitative.

There is one interesting feature of these Psalms. Marcello makes use of traditional chant, not only from the Christian Church - known as ‘Gregorian chant’ – but also Hebrew melodies, both liturgical and sephardic songs. In Psalm 21, for instance, he includes a melody of the Germanic Jews, which was also used by composers in the 19th century (for instance Rossini). It is to be sung here by a solo voice, without accompaniment, after the seventh section, in Hebrew. In Psalm 14 (O Signor, chi sarŕ mai), we also find such a passage. Here it is a melody from the Sephardic tradition on words from Psalm 118.

It is alsonotable that in Psalm 21 Marcello borrows material from a secular cantata from his own pen, Dove fuggisti, o Dio. That was a common practice at the time; Handel was notorious for it. The use of secular material for sacred music sometimes raises questions. However, composers at the time didn’t see any problems here. Bach recycled secular cantatas for sacred subjects. Marco Bizzarini, in his liner-notes, mentions the similarity of the affetti between different texts. “It may seem far-fetched to suggest an analogy between David in his affliction, the figure of the crucified Christ on the cross and the amorous sighs of a forlorn and forsaken shepherdess, but the affects - or passions – evoked are certainly similar, despite the two different registers”.

Considering the fame of Marcello’s Estro poetico-armonico it is rather surprising and disappointing that so few recordings of Psalms from this collection are available on disc. This production is a substantial contribution to the revival of Marcello's collection. The performances are highly expressive, both vocally and instrumentally. Caroline Pelon and Mélodie Ruvio both have nice voices, and they do the text full justice, through the colouring of the voice, excellent articulation and diction and an effective dynamic shading. Unfortunately they mostly use a bit too much vibrato, but that does not withhold me from urging anyone to investigate this disc. The music is superb, and its qualities are convincingly conveyed here. Let’s hope that more of Marcello's Psalm settings will be recorded in due course.

Johan van Veen
www.musica-dei-donum.org
twitter.com/johanvanveen




Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger