Marcello: Six Violin Concertos (La cetra); Violin Concerto in B flat

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LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Six Violin Concertos (La cetra); Violin Concerto in B flat
PERFORMER: Simon Standage (violin, conductor)Collegium Musicum 90
Alessandro Marcello (1684-1750) was the son of a Venetian senator and a poet named Paolina Capella, and the two families (Marcello and Capella) founded the Teatro Sant’Angelo in 1676, with which Vivaldi was later to be closely associated. Alessandro’s younger brother Benedetto (1686-1739) was an even more prolific composer – his oeuvre comprises some 700 compositions – and the author of the famous treatise Il teatro alla moda (1720), which satirised Vivaldi, among other figures in Venetian theatrical life.


Alessandro was, as said, less prolific, but his works include 12 cantatas (Op. 1) and many instrumental works, among them an Oboe Concerto in D minor, which was transcribed by Bach (BWV 974), originally published in Amsterdam about 1717. Some ten years later Marcello’s Six Concertos were published in Augsburg under the name ‘La cetra’ (the lyre), a title which Vivaldi had used twice, once for his published Op. 9 of 1727. When Marcello published his concertos, he used his Arcadian pseudonym ‘Eterico Stinfalico’.

This pleasant music, extremely well played by Simon Standage and a group of period instruments (flutes, oboes, bassoon, strings, harpsichord), gives us a judicious cross-section of Marcello’s style in instrumental music. His style is often chromatic, with interesting harmonic surprises and dissonances, but I would not recommend playing all seven concertos at one sitting: they are not as lively as, say, Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico, and I found the ear becoming slightly fatigued en route.


If you want an attractive sample, try Concerto No. 3 in B minor, its entrancing pizzicato strings in the slow movement accompanying flute and oboe, together with violin solo. The final work is entitled ‘Concerto decimo con l’eco’ (Tenth Concerto with Echo) and is seductive music. A welcome CD. HC Robbins Landon