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Benedetto MARCELLO (1686 - 1739): Sonate per Flauto e Basso, Op. 2 (Sonate 1 - 6)

Il Rossignolo

rec: October 2003, Florence, San Salvatore a Leccio Castello
Tactus - TC 683802 ( 2005) (76'28")

Fugue for keyboard in e minord [1]; Fugue for keyboard in g minord [1]; Sonata for keyboard in Gd [1]; Sonata for keyboard in c minord [1]; Sonata I in F, op. 2,1abcd [2]; Sonata II in d minor, op. 2,2abcd [2]; Sonata III in g minor, op. 2,3abcd [2]; Sonata IV in e minor, op. 2,4abcd [2]; Sonata V in G, op. 2,5abcd [2]; Sonata VI in C, op. 2,6abcd [2]; Toccata for keyboard in Ad [1];

Martino Noferi, recordera; Raffaele Sorrentino, cellob; Gian Luca Lastraioli, archlute, guitarc; Ottaviano Tenerani, harpsichordd

(Sources: [1] Variationi o Partite per il Cembalo e Organo Del Sigr. Benedetto Marcello ..., [ms, n.d.]; [2] Sonate per Flauto e Basso, Op. 2, 1712)

Benedetto Marcello was born in a versatile family, his father being both a violinist and a politician (he was a senator of the Venetian government), while his mother was an artist and a poetess. It is perhaps under her influence that Benedetto valued poetic use of words very highly. Like his father he wasn't a man of just one profession: apart from being a musician he was active as a lawyer, administrator, philologist and writer. It seems there was a strong rivalry between Benedetto and his older brother Alessandro, who - according to one story - didn't think very highly of his brother's musical skills.

Benedetto Marcello's interest in poetry was demonstrated in his Estro poetico armonico, a collection of 50 psalm settings which was held in high esteem in his own time and which still belongs to his best-known works. In the programme notes Martino Noferi suggests the title was perhaps a taunt in Vivaldi's direction, who published a collection of 12 concertos under the title Estro armonico in 1711 in Amsterdam. If he is correct the title of Marcello's collection may well indicate what he thought was lacking in Vivaldi's music: poetry. Marcello himself was praised for "strength and regularity of design", and "noble simplicity". This simplicity was a feature associated with 'early music', meaning the music of the 16th and early 17th century, which Marcello was strongly interested in.

Marcello's first publication was a collection of concertos which appeared in 1708, and from which Johann Sebastian Bach took one piece to transcribe for keyboard (BWV 981). The 12 sonatas for recorder and basso continuo, the first six of which are played on this disc, were published in Venice in 1712. The popularity of this collection is proven by the fact that they were published again the same year by Estienne Roger in Amsterdam. And as late as 1730 John Walsh in London published these sonatas in a transcription for the transverse flute, which had replaced the recorder as the most fashionable wind instrument.

The poetical character of Marcello's style of composing doesn't mean they lack contrast and drama. That is most impressively demonstrated in this recording, where Il Rossignol and its recorder player, Martino Noferi, give very dramatic and gestural accounts of the first six sonatas of this collection. These are certainly not without twists and turns, and the players don't hesitate to explore them. Martino Noferi often goes to the limits of the dynamic possibilities of the recorder. And his colleagues give excellent support with an imaginative realisation of the basso continuo part, and also show a very good sense of rhythm. It is in particular in the slow movements where we meet the poet Marcello. Here Noferi excels in the abundant addition of ornaments. I sometimes feel the 'adagios' are played a little too fast,though.

The recorder sonatas are interspersed by pieces for keyboard, which come from a manuscript in the library of the Naples conservatory. The fugues are rather old-fashioned, and it is interesting to note that the subject and countersubject of the Fugue in e minor appear almost unchanged in Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata in e minor (BWV 914). The sonatas show some affinity with Domenico Scarlatti's. The keyboard works get excellent performances here from Ottaviano Tenerani on a beautiful Italian harpsichord.

This disc offers an enthralling interpretation of these sonatas by Marcello. This is what I expect from an Italian performance of Italian music, underlining the theatrical character of basically all Italian music. In the booklet the release of the other sonatas from this opus is announced. I can hardly wait.

Johan van Veen ( 2007)

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