Classical Editor: Rob Barnett
Founder: Len Mullenger

May 2012

Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739)
Sonata III in sol maggiore [7:02]
Sonata V in re minore [8:32]
Sonata VII in la minore [11:01]
Minuetto in do maggiore [1:39]
Sonata X in do minore [7:02]
Sonata IX in la maggiore [7:02]
Minuetto in do maggiore [1:39]
Andrea Bacchetti (piano)
rec. APRIL 2010, Fazioli Concert Hall, Sacile
RCA/SONY MUSIC 88697814662 [55:26]
Sony RCA's chosen title, 'Piano Sonatas', is something of an anachronism, as is Italian pianist Andrea Bacchetti's use of a modern pianoforte, so music-lovers who prefer historical exactitude are probably unlikely to give this new release much of a chance. That would be a pity for two reasons at least: first, because any chance to listen to the inexplicably neglected Benedetto Marcello's music should always be jumped at. Secondly, because Bacchetti gives a typically stylish, thoughtful and expressive account of these five appealing and distinctive Suonate. His phrasing and colouring is at the same time understated and revelatory. His recent modern-piano recordings of Galuppi's Sonatas on RCA Red Seal (88697367932), of Bach's English Suites on Decca (476 3127, 2 CDs) and his Toccatas on Dynamic (CDS 658) were all highly praised. Here, the alien sound of Bacchetti's instrument in historical terms is all but forgotten in these sensitive, timeless explorations.

Marcello's elder brother Alessandro is probably better remembered nowadays, chiefly for his Oboe Concerto in D minor. Benedetto's fine vocal music, both sacred and secular, was popular until the 20th century. Musicologist Eleanor Selfridge-Field, who provides the biographical essay for Marcello in New Grove, refers to his "perfunctory involvement with instrumental music", but such a remark belies the free-thinking modernity-through-simplicity of these almost anti-Bachian works.

Selfridge-Field is also the author of 'The Music of Benedetto and Alessandro Marcello: a Thematic Catalogue with Commentary on the Composers, Works and Sources' (Oxford, 1990), and in recent times an 'SF' number has begun to be attached to Marcello's works. They could have been of benefit here, where some of these Sonatas may or may not be related or identical to those in his lost op.3. What the accompanying notes explain, in a roundabout way, is that these versions are fruits of a new edition, prepared from original manuscripts held in the Marciana National Library in Venice by Bacchetti himself and by Mario Marcarini, author of those notes.

The notes themselves are well written, if with a slight foreign accent in translation, but also brief, with barely a mention of the music. A small note on the back inlay indicates that there are "ROM extras on CD", and it is there that the reader will find some historical background to the works and their source - although the extra text would have added very few extra sides to the booklet.

Such is the beauty of Marcello's Sonatas and the near-perfection of Bacchetti's interpretations, that the listener is inevitably left wondering why the eighty minutes of available CD space could not have been filled up more generously.

Byzantion, May 2012
First published on MusicWeb International