Alessandro Ignazio Marcello (February 1, 1673–June 19, 1747) was an Italian nobleman and dilettante musician, born on August 24, 1669, in Venice, Italy. A contemporary of Tomaso Albinoni, Marcello was the son of a senator in Venice. As such, he enjoyed a comfortable life that gave him the scope to pursue his interest in music. Alessandro was educated at the Collegio di S. Antonio where he studied law. After his studies, Alessandro joined the Venetian Arcadian society, the Pontificia Accademia degli Arcadi, in 1698.
Marcello was a member of the city-state’s high council, serving 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. Being a nobleman, he played and wrote music for pleasure alone.
Marcello held concerts in his hometown and also composed and published several sets of concertos, including six concertos under the title of La Cetra (The Lyre), a dozen each of chamber cantatas, which dealt primarily with pastoral subjects and contained topical references, and violin sonatas, as well as several arias and canzonets. Marcello, being a slightly older contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi, often composed under the pseudonym Eterio Stinfalico, his name as a member of the celebrated Arcadian Academy, which is one of the reasons why his music was not known until the mid-20th century. His cantatas, 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.
Alessandro’s younger and more famous brother was Benedetto Marcello, also a composer, who illegally married his singing student Rosanna Scalfi in 1728. Alessandro also excelled in various other areas, including poetry, philosophy, and mathematics, but he is most notably remembered for his music. A concerto, op 1, which Marcello wrote in D minor for oboe, strings and basso continuo, published about 1717 at Amsterdam in a concerto anthology, is perhaps his best-known work. Its worth was affirmed by Johann Sebastian Bach who transcribed it for solo harpsichord in D minor (BWV 974). A number of editions have been published of this famous Oboe Concerto in D minor. The edition in C minor is credited to Benedetto.
After Benedetto’s death in 1739 Rosanna was unable to inherit his estate, and in 1742 she filed suit against Alessandro, seeking financial support. Although Marcello’s compositional output is small and 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.” Alessandro died in Padua, Italy, on June 19, 1747.
The following work by Alessandro Marcello is contained in my collection:
Oboe Concerto in gm
—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources