Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)
Sonate per flauto e basso Op. II
From his early works (amongst which there are the Sonatas on this CD) to his last cantatas, Benedetto Marcello’s compositions got increasing complex both from a formal point of view and as regards number of parts he wrote for. It may be said that he took an essential part in the transition from the “prima prattica” to the “seconda prattica”, i.e. that moves towards more manifest emotions and rhetoric, but remains firmly connected to strict early counterpoint. It was the quality of both innovation and respect for past practises that earned him praise for his Psalms on the part of some of the greatest composers of that time: Johann Mattheson, who appreciated the fact that there were not “troppe voci differenti, e contrappunti troppo affaticati e sforzati” (too many different voice, and too much tiresome and contrived counterpoint), and Giovanni Bononcini, Domenico Sarri, Francesco Gasparini and Georg Philipp Telemann who also confirmed their esteem. And it was this very quality that prompted later generations to consider Benedetto Marcello, as well as Händel, to be the forerunners of the “sublime” style of Gluck. We think that this mixture of “affections” and severity has lead some to think that the Sonatas recorded here, are excessively simple. This opinion is linked to the fact that the “Suonate a flauto solo… opera seconda” are early works, so are marvellously essential in design and, at a first glance, seem to lack substance. We think, on the contrary, that it is the flexibility, so easily discernable in some of the themes, that makes these easily recognizable and familiar compositions unique and affecting. Very good examples of this are the theme from A Tempo Giusto Vivace in Sonata VI, that recalls a nursery rhyme or children playing in the Calli in Venice; or that from first Allegro from Sonata I in F major that is it no sooner enunciated than it is familiar and plies for our attention. Then there are the frequent Gigues in 12/8 (the second Allegro in Sonatas I and V in this first volume), the Sarabandes and their imitations, the Passepied in 3/8 (the last Allegro in Sonata IV or the final Presto A Tempo Giusto in Sonata III, whose rhythm we particularly enjoyed playing) and the Siciliane (also in 12/8). In the slow ternary movements, (such as the Largo in Sonata II, the second Adagio in Sonata III or the Largo in Sonata V), the melodic pattern is left unembellished (We knew how they could be varied: the slow movements from Archangelo Corelli’s Opera V, in the edition published by Roger, are good examples, although they are not in ritornello form) but they are full of natural melodies and fresh phrasing, and the first slow binary movements (in 4/4, which Quantz calls a “schmeichelnde Bittschrift”, i. e. a “flattering supplication”) is characterised by a vigorous ascending melody.