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Alessandro Marcello (Composer)

Born: August 24, 1669 - Venice, Italy
Died: June 19, 1747 - Padua, Italy

Alessandro Marcello was an Italian nobleman and dilettante who excelled in various areas, including poetry, philosophy, mathematics and, perhaps most notably, music. Much of what is known about Alessandro Marcello comes not from his few compositions, but from his professional career and social activities as a member of Venice's nobility. Both he and his younger and more famous brother Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739) studied law and were members of the city-state's high council. Alessandro was educated at the Collegio di S. Antonio.

After studies, Alessandro Marcello joined the Venetian Arcadian society, the Accademia degli Animosi in 1698, and served the city as a diplomat in the Levant and the Peloponnese in 1700 and 1701. After returning to Venice, he took on a series of judiciary positions while dabbling in a number of creative endeavors. He was responsible for paintings found in the family palaces and parish church and, after joining the literary society, the Accademia della Crusca, published eight books of couplets, Ozii giovanili, in 1719. That same year, he was named head of the Accademia degli Animosi, and as such, he did much to expand its collection of musical instruments, many of which are now in Rome's National Museum of Musical Instruments. A slightly older contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi, Marcello held concerts at his hometown of Venice. Being a nobleman, he played and wrote music for pleasure alone.

Alessandro Marcello's compositional output is small, consisting of not much more than a dozen each of chamber cantatas, violin sonatas, and concertos, as well as several arias and canzonets. Most of his works were published under the pseudonym "Eterio Stinfalico," his name as a member of the celebrated Arcadian Academy (Pontificia Accademia degli Arcadi). He composed and published several sets of concertos, including six concertos under the title of La Cetra (The Lyre). Although his works are infrequently performed today, Marcello is regarded as a very competent composer. His La Cetra concertos are "unusual for their wind solo parts, concision and use of counterpoint within a broadly Vivaldian style," according to Grove, "placing them as a last outpost of the classic Venetian Baroque concerto." His cantatas dealt primarily with pastoral subjects and contained topical references, and, befitting his station in society, were clearly intended for Venice's and Rome's best singers, including Farinelli, Checchino, Laura and Virginia Predieri, and Benedetto's student, Faustina Bordoni. His instrumental works reflect a knowledge and understanding of the differences in French, Italian, and German music of the time, including choices of instruments for both the solo and continuo parts and use of ornamentation. Of all of his works, what is best known is the Adagio from the Oboe Concerto, which has become a staple of wedding music collections.

J.S. Bach Connection

Alessandro Marcello's small but distinguished musical output includes a concerto in D minor for oboe, strings and basso continuo, published about 1717 at Amsterdam in a concerto anthology and transcribed by J.S. Bach as concerto for solo harpsichord in D minor (as BWV 974), presumably from an earlier manuscript. Using the pseudonym "Eterio Stinfalico" is one of the reasons why it was not known until the mid-20th century thar this fine, typically Venetian concerto was composed by Alessandro Marcello. In the past it has sometimes been attributed to Antonio Vivaldi as well as to Benedetto Marcello, but there is no reason to doubt Alessandro's authorship.

Source: All Music Guide (Author: Patsy Morita); Wikipedia Website; Malcom Boyd, editor: Oxford Composer Companion J.S. Bach (Oxford University Press, 1999, Article author: Michael Talbot)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2008)

Works arranged by J.S. Bach

Concerto for solo keyboard No. 3 in D minor (after A. Marcello), BWV 974

Links to other Sites

Alessandro Marcello (Wikipedia)
Alessandro Marcello - Biography (Naxos)
Classical Music Archives: Biography of Alessandro Marcello
Alessandro Marcello (

Alessandro Marcello (Karadar)
Alessandro Marcello - Portrait and recommended recordings (Classical Net)
Alessandro Marcello (WQXR)



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Last update: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 23:33