Sony RCA's chosen title, 'Piano Sonatas', is something of an
anachronism, as is Italian pianist Andrea Bacchetti's use of
a modern pianoforte. Music-lovers who prefer historical exactitude
are probably unlikely to give this new release much of a chance.
That would be a pity for two reasons at least: first, because
any chance to listen to the inexplicably neglected Benedetto
Marcello's music should always be jumped at. Secondly, because
Bacchetti gives a typically stylish, thoughtful and expressive
account of these five appealing and distinctive Suonate.
His phrasing and colouring is at the same time understated and
revelatory. His recent modern-piano recordings of Galuppi's
Sonatas on RCA Red Seal (review),
of Bach's English Suites on Decca (review)
and his Toccatas on Dynamic (review) were all highly praised.
Here, the alien sound of Bacchetti's instrument in historical
terms is all but forgotten in these sensitive, timeless explorations.
Marcello's elder brother Alessandro is probably better remembered
nowadays, chiefly for his Oboe Concerto in D minor. Benedetto's
fine vocal music, both sacred and secular, was popular until
the 20th century. Musicologist Eleanor Selfridge-Field, who
provides the biographical essay for Marcello in New Grove, refers
to his "perfunctory involvement with instrumental music", but
such a remark belies the free-thinking modernity-through-simplicity
of these almost anti-Bachian works.
Selfridge-Field is also the author of 'The Music of Benedetto
and Alessandro Marcello: a Thematic Catalogue with Commentary
on the Composers, Works and Sources' (Oxford, 1990), and in
recent times an 'SF' number has begun to be attached to Marcello's
works. They could have been of benefit here, where some of these
Sonatas may or may not be related or identical to those in his
lost op.3. What the accompanying notes explain, in a roundabout
way, is that these versions are fruits of a new edition, prepared
from original manuscripts held in the Marciana National Library
in Venice by Bacchetti himself and by Mario Marcarini, author
of those notes.
The notes themselves are well written, if with a slight foreign
accent in translation, but also brief, with barely a mention
of the music. A small note on the back inlay indicates that
there are "ROM extras on CD", and it is there that the reader
will find some historical background to the works and their
source - although the extra text would have added very few extra
sides to the booklet.
Such is the beauty of Marcello's Sonatas and the near-perfection
of Bacchetti's interpretations, that the listener is inevitably
left wondering why the eighty minutes of available CD space
could not have been filled up more generously.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
see also review by Dominy