Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739)
Sonatas Op.2 for flute and basso continuo (1712)
Sonata No.1 in F [6:24]
Sonata No.2 in D minor [8:15]
Sonata No.3 in G minor [7:41]
Sonata No.4 in E minor [9:06]
Sonata No.5 in G [6:22]
Sonata No.6 in C [10:10]
Sonata No.7 in B flat [7:48]
Sonata No.8 in D minor [8:46]
Sonata No.9 in C [8:39]
Sonata No.10 in A minor [8:17]
Sonata No.11 in G minor [6:15]
Sonata No.12 in F [9:37]
Trio Legrenzi (Vasco Magnolato (flute), Giuliano Vio (cello), Michele Liuzzi (harpsichord))
rec. 22-26 October 1990, Venice. DDD
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802123 [47:58 + 49:22]
Although written early in Marcello’s career, his Op. 2 sonatas contain some thoroughly attractive and typically intelligent music. As Lindsay Kemp says in his notes to this issue of a recording which first appeared on the Italian label Rivoalto, this is music of a composer who sought “melodic clarity and balance, harmonies that are both elegant and strongly directed, and an understated but solid contrapuntal grounding. In these sonatas, quietly accomplished models of their kind, he achieved all of these”. Sadly, it has to be said that these performances by the Trio Legrenzi are not an ideal way to come to an appreciation of Marcello’s interesting and assured sonatas.
There is a pervading blandness to much of the playing, a lack of bite and characterisation, that quite quickly enervates the music’s intrinsic vitality and makes the results somewhat underwhelming. I am not sure how far it is the fault of the recorded balance and how far that of the musicians, but the playing of soloist and continuo is inconsistently integrated; there is a frequent lack of balance, with the flautist generally excessively foregrounded; there are times when harpsichordist and cellist seem to be following the soloist and times when they seem to be ahead of him. Flautist Vasco Magnolato produces some moments of genuine tonal beauty but they often don’t seem to be part of any larger musical purpose or argument. Too many of the movements are allowed to sound excessively similar to one another and the subtlety of the distinctions Marcello creates is not fully articulated.
Fortunately, there are a number of other recorded versions of these sonatas which make available to the listener more persuasive accounts of their merits and rather more listening pleasure. These include the set by Hans-Ludwig Hirsch and the Accademia Claudio Monteverdi Venezia (on the Arts Music label), which makes use of a greater range of instrumental combinations and is both better played and better recorded, and the set by Sergio Balestracci (playing recorder), with Antonio Mosca and Ottavio Dantone on Stradivarius, full of playing that is altogether more characterful and persuasively idiomatic and benefiting from a more vivid recorded sound than is to be found on the present CDs.

In short this is a disappointing set, which doesn’t do justice to Marcello’s interesting sonatas and isn’t one of Newton Classics’ better choices in their often enterprising programme of reissues.
Glyn Pursglove 
Disappointing readings of interesting music.