Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)

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Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)

Cultural Situation

By the time Benedetto Marcello was born, many distinguished families in the Venetian nobility were oriented towards honing their intellectual and cultural skills. Venice itself appeared to be in robust economic and political health, but its influence was starting to wane and its markets were contracting. These problems became acute as Marcello reached his maturity. It is noteworthy that, despite the decline of collective fortunes, Marcello chose to commit his most important musical works to musical scores made available with the utmost attention to graphical detail.

Contrasting Profiles: Marcello vs Vivaldi

Benedetto Marcello, a Venetian polymath, was a direct contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). The difference between them could not have been greater. Marcello descended from a noble family that had made numerous contributions to the civic and governmental life of the Venetian Republic, while Vivaldi descended from a family of small merchants. Marcello was educated in the manner of most noble Venetian males: at the Colleggio dei Nobili and at the University of Padua. Vivaldi was a day student at a district seminary. Marcello was a cellist, Vivaldi a violinist. Marcello was also an accomplished keyboard player.

As adults, Marcello served in a long series of magistracies and government posts in Pula (then part of the Venetian peninsula, now within the borders of Slovenia) and, finally, in Brescia, where he died. He was something of an outcast in the last decade of his. Vivaldi accrued one accolade after another as a virtuoso but increasingly involved himself in the world of opera. He too suffered various career setbacks in the final decade of his life and died a pauper in Vienna.

Marcello was sometimes envious of Vivaldi's fame, particularly in the face of musical and theatrical practices the nobleman considered specious and superficial. Recent research suggests that there were deeper motives for this antagonism. They issued from confrontations between the two in the equivalent of small-claims courts. Many of Vivaldi's operatic productions were financial disasters. Local magistracies had the duty of setting things to rights.

Marcello's Music

The recent popularity of Vivaldi's music has completely eclipsed the substantial repertory that Marcello created. Marcello's numerous achievements fall in very different places from those of Vivaldi. The course of his career as a composer, which was interwoven with his career as a magistrate, moved from one genre to another.

Marcello's Cantatas and Duets

Marcello's Madrigals

Marcello's Serenatas

Marcello's Instrumental Music

Marcello's Psalm Settings

Marcello's Oratorios

Marcello's Musical Satires