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Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739)
Sonata No. 1 in F major [5:47]
Sonata No. 2 in D minor [8:36]
Sonata No. 3 in G minor [5:06]
Sonata No. 4 in E minor [8:10]
Sonata No. 5 in G major [5:32]
Sonata No. 6 in C major [7:18]
Sonata No. 7 in B flat major [6:26]
Sonata No. 8 in D minor [7:35]
Sonata No. 9 in C major [5:37]
Sonata No. 10 in A minor [8:15]
Sonata No. 11 in G minor [5:39]
Sonata No. 12 in F major [4:19]
Jacques Vandeville (oboe); Jean-Michel Louchart (organ)
rec. July 2014, L’Abbatiale de Saint-Cyprien-en Périgord
SYRIUS SYR 14166 [78:07]

Benedetto Marcello was the youngest of six children to a family in the Venetian nobility. His brother Alessandro was also known as a great composer. Benedetto is best known for his hundreds of cantatas and remembered for a satirical pamphlet, ‘Téatro alla moda’, which targeted Antonio Vivaldi and decried a decline in composition and quality of performance.

The twelve Op 2 sonatas are almost entirely ‘Church Sonata’ in form and derive from the beginning of Benedetto Marcello’s career. These aren't filled with famous tunes, though you can easily hear how this Italian style influenced Handel. Marcello introduced variety in the form of dance movements which include gavottes, minuets, sarabandes and gigues. The Sonata No. 12 has an extended Ciaccona which became one of his most widespread works in the 18th century in its version for solo harpsichord. As is common for these kinds of pieces the actual instrumentation is quite free. For this recording the Grenzing organ in Saint-Cyprien-en-Périgord forms a delightful backdrop to Jacques Vandeville’s oboe. The rich acoustic is perfect for these translucently notated pieces.

There are a few minor negatives about this otherwise highly attractive recording. Each sonata appears on a single access point, and I can imagine most students of these works appreciating the separate movements being cue-able separately. The other point is one which may not affect the very casual listener, but I was on occasion slightly discomforted by some dodgy moments in more technically demanding movements. Vandeville can be a little inconsistent rhythmically, and passages such as from the 7th minute on in the Sonata No. 2 keep you on the edge of your seat, and not entirely for the best of reasons. Organist Jean-Michel Louchart is alert and the two musicians hold everything together for the most part.

While this CD may not be entirely blemish free, the organ/oboe combination works very well. There is plenty of variety in colour from the accompaniment, making for a very pleasant listen indeed. Slower and more expressive movements are performed with sensitivity, and Jacques Vandeville’s oboe sound has an appealing vibrato - two words which rarely go together, and even less so in music of this period. The solo line sounds natural and is unaffected by over-florid ornamentation. In terms of comparison I haven’t found any with comparable instrumentation. Recorder and harpsichord are somewhat dryly presented by the Accademia Claudio Monteverdi Venezia on the Arts label (review), and preferable to this might be the Lyremar Trio on Centaur if they weren’t so pedestrian. More lively is Il Rossignolo on Tactus (review), though the surging breathing of recorder player Martino Noferi in the slow movements reminds me of a very badly warped LP. These are all with harpsichord and not really in the same ball-park. Having this Op. 2 on a single disc is a treat, and despite my technical quibbles this fuss-free organ and oboe account has now become my first choice.

Dominy Clements