Although a nobleman by birth, Benedetto Marcello was also a serious amateur composer who wrote in many of the principal genres of his day. This compilation focuses on the Italian’s 12 concertos for strings Op.1 and 5 Sinfonias – two delightful collections dating from the latter half of his dilettante career.
The sets demonstrate just how innovative a composer Marcello was. Written in 1708 and featuring a solo cello as well as violin part, Op.1 is particularly notable for its inclusion of the former instrument – which, having only just been invented, was a relatively new addition to the Venetian orchestra at that time. With the number of movements varying from one concerto to the other and thus reflecting a form still in its infancy, the collection also displays originality through details like No.7’s extraordinary use of F minor. Such inventive quirks more than make up for its lack of virtuosity and form an important part of the 5 Sinfonias which follow – the dramatic stop-start opening of No.3 being a particular case in point.
Marcello’s older brother is reputed to have said that Benedetto had only mediocre talent.
Given the wealth of musical invention in this recording, however, he was entirely wrong. An absorbing release that documents the early development of two important forms and sees the welcome return of Angelo Ephrikian’s ensemble.