A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Marcello, Benedetto

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MARCELLO, Benedetto, eminent composer, a Venetian of noble birth, son of Agostino Marcello and Paola Capello, born July 31, or August 1, 1686. He was highly educated, and had great natural gifts for music, and was a pupil of Lotti and Gasparini. The violin was his first instrument, but he soon gave his whole attention to singing and composition. His father, objecting to the time thus occupied, sent him from home to study law, but on his death Benedetto returned to Venice, and contrived to combine the practice of music with his professional avocations. He held important government posts, was a member of the Council of Forty, and afterwards Proveditore of Pola (1730). Here he remained 8 years, when his health having been ruined by the climate he became Camerlengo at Brescia, and there died July 24, 1739. His monument in the church of S. Giuseppe states his age to have been 52 years, 11 months, and 23 days. He was elected Cavaliero of the Filarmonici of Bologna in 1812, and was also a member of the Pastori Arcadi of Rome. In his youth he was wild, but sobered down in middle life. His great work, in 8 volumes, folio, 'Estro poetico-armonico, Parafrasi sopra i primi 50 Psalmi,Poesia di Girolamo Giustiniani,' appeared in two parts of 25 Psalms each (Venice, 1724–27). They are composed for 1, 2, 3, and 4 voices, with figured basses, and occasionally with 2 violins and cello obligati; and for expression far surpass any other work of the kind. Dr. Burney, in his notice of Marcello (Hist. iv. 543), considers that they have been overpraised, and that even in the composer's day his airs and themes were neither new nor original. In spite however of this judgment it is not to much to say that, as a whole, they constitute one of the finest productions of musical literature. An English edition, edited by Avison and Garth, was published in London in 1757 in 8 vols.; a second in Italian soon after (Venice); and a third by Valle (1803–8). The latest, with P.F. accompaniment by Mirecki, was printed by Carli of Paris. Marcello also composed instrumental concertos (1701), and 'Canzoni madrigaleschi' (Bologna, 1717); besides 'Calista in Orsa,' pastoral (libretto printed in 1725, music unpub.); 'La Fede riconosciuta,' opera (Vicenza, 1702); 'Arianna,' cantata; and 'Giuditta,' oratorio, all to his own words. As a poet he was above the average, and furnished the libretto for Ruggieri's 'Arato in Sparta' (Venice, 1709). In 1720 he published a satirical pamphlet 'Il Teatro alla Moda,' reprinted in 1727, 33, 38 (Venice), and 1741 (Florence). The Library of St. Mark in Venice contains a MS. 'Teoria Musicale'; the Royal Library of Dresden ancient copies of two cantatas, 'Timotheus,' to his own Italian translation of Dryden's poem, and 'Cassandra '; the Court Library of Vienna many autographs and other works, including the cantatas 'Addio di Ettone,' 'Clori e Daliso,' and 'La Stravaganza'; and the Royal Library of Brussels 'Il Trionfo della musica nel celebrarsi la morte di Maria Vergine,' an oratorio for 6 voices and chorus. This score was once in the possession of Fétis, who speaks highly of its expression, pathos, and effective instrumentation. Rossini has borrowed one of the most prominent themes in his overture to the 'Siege of Corinth' note for note from Marcello's 21st Psalm. For Marcello's 'Lettera Famigliare,' see Lotti.

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