Musical contribution - April 2018

I cieli immensi narrano - Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739) (LiVE sample set: Groningen, Schnitger).

Now that spring is here, everything is flourishing and flowering, and we can see and hear all the animals outside again, we also need some cheerful spring sounds. Something suitable both in text and music is an arrangement of Psalm 19 by the Italian baroque composer, Benedetto Giacomo Marcello. He came from a noble family, so his father, Marcello, naturally felt that he ought to study law. Fortunately, Benedetto was able to combine this with musical studies, which means that we are now still able to enjoy several hundreds of his works.

The great influence of father Marcello over his family is apparent from the fact that his son was not allowed to marry singer Rosanna Scalfi. She was a mere commoner, and therefore not suited to the noble family. However, love would not be denied, and Benedetto and Rosanna married in secret.

The work we’re offering this month has already been arranged for many line-ups including strings alone, violin and piano, soprano, cello and organ, and organ alone. A prominent organist from the US recently claimed that the original was written for “Brass and Organ”. However, this psalm comes from “Estro poetico-armonico”, a collection of polyphonic psalm arrangements for choir, string instruments and basso continuo. Furthermore, this work is only the first two and a half minutes of a composition lasting more than 10 minutes.

But don’t worry, it’s still a light-hearted opening and is often included in concert programs in this capacity. The first two measures open in unison in a ff. To achieve the mf in measure 3, we can best use another keyboard. Incidentally, the difference between ff and mf does not need to be so large, otherwise measure 20 (right hand) will not come across as clearly.

For the rest, this arrangement is not complicated, so let it bubble over with enthusiasm! As nature itself makes abundantly clear: “The heavens declare the glory of God”.

With musical regards,

André van Vliet

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