Benedetto Marcello: Psalms

Voces 8 : Les Inventions
59:57
Signum SIG CD 391

I don’t normally approve of advancing the reputation of a composer at the expense of one of his contemporaries, but the statement in Patrick Ayrton’s that we would be more familiar with the name of Marcello if Vivaldi hadn’t sprung to prominence at the beginning of the 20th century undoubtedly has some truth to it. Marcello’s music has always struck me as having more heart than Vivaldi’s, and this is born out by these charming settings of the Psalms.

I am not convinced by the wisdom of presenting them here in the 1757 English adaptations by Charles Avison – perhaps these works are so unfamiliar that they deserve to be heard in the original Italian, a form in which they swept Europe and impressed Marcello’s musical contemporaries. And perhaps lines such as ‘his eyelids try the children of men’ and ‘my moisture is like the drought in summer’ are best left in the relative obscurity of Italian. The performances are generally idiomatic, although I found the rather roomy church acoustic made both voices and instruments sound rather indistinct and distant. Having said that, a nice variety of vocal colours and a lovely blend make for a convincing representation of Marcello’s largely unknown masterpiece Estro poetico-armonico. More please.

D. James Ross