Marcello: Arianna

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LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Arianna
PERFORMER: Anna Chierichetti, Gloria Banditelli, Mirko Guadagnini, Sergio Foresti, Antonio Abete; Athestis Chorus, Academia de li Musici/Filippo Maria Bressan
It hardly needs saying, but there is a lot more to 18th-century Venetian music than Vivaldi. Yet if the name Marcello means anything to people, it probably belongs to the Agostino Marcello who is still played by cellists today. His younger brother Benedetto (1686-1739) was a composer and satirist who took a dim view of Vivaldi’s ‘modernism’. Benedetto specialised in church music (his greatest achievement was 50 paraphrases of the Psalms) and though his work-list features no operas in the strictest sense it includes the substantial Arianna, dating from 1726 and described as ‘a play for music with five voices’. As this very welcome recording on Chandos’s early music label shows, Arianna may not contain great music but it is a vivid telling of a story that has appealed to composers from Monteverdi to Strauss.


Benedetto Marcello’s works also include two madrigals weighing up the moral and aesthetic issues behind the Venetian craze of the time for castratos, and perhaps the absence of a male alto part in Arianna is further evidence of what he felt about the matter. The hero, Teseo, is a tenor, and in Mirko Guadagnini’s full-voiced performance he’s a match for Gloria Banditelli’s potent Fedra. Anna Chierichetti is a bright, spirited Arianna, and Filippo Maria Bressan directs his fine period forces with flair. John Allison