Bendetto Marcello’s reputation has been eclipsed by that of Vivaldi and the other professional musicians of his era his music is now largely forgotten. Its obscurity is our loss for Marcello’s music was greatly admired and rightly so by Bach, Telemann, Locatelli, Avison and Goethe, and in later times Cherubini, Rossini and Verdi. The ‘Nobile Veneto’ (Venetian Aristocrat) as he was referred to was admired for his music’s skilfully written counterpoint, the way in which closely followed the texts it set, and last but by no means least its clear and pleasing melodies. This very talented amateur was spoken of in the same breath as Pergolesi and Palestrina which is when, you think of it, no mean feat.
Benedetto Marcello was born into a Venetian patrician family and rose through that city’s ruling class to hold a variety of senior administrative and judicial appointments such as membership of the Council of Forty, Provveditore of Pola, and Camerlengo at Brescia, in the Venetian Republic’s service. It was unthinkable that a man of his class be a professional composer so Marcello had to content himself with the status of dilettante composer. His music was heard in the salons of the rich and aristocratic but not performed in public. A similar fate befell his religious music, at least in Venice – his psalm settings for example were never sung in St. Marks. Outside of Venice it was a different matter his cantatas and oratorios were widely performed and his sacred music was translated into French, German, Swedish, English, and Russian and widely performed.
Dulcis Jesu Mater cara (Dear Mother of sweet Jesus) which you can hear below is from his Requiem in G minor "Requiem ‘in the Venetian Manner" which probably dates from between 1728 and 1733. It’s a lovely piece of music that was meant to be sung in place of the Agnus Dei. Structurally it’s in the form of a musical dialogue between the soloists with accompaniment and is characterised by some lovely melodies that are passed back and forth between the soloists and recapitulated in the accompaniment. Enjoy :-)
Benedetto Marcello (1686–1739): Dulcis Jesu Mater cara
Dulcis Jesu Mater cara,
Dear Mother of sweet Jesus,
In stellarum Regina, et angelorum Diva,
Queen of Heaven and Divine of Angels
In isto mundo labili,
In this transient world,
Dum crescunt nostri gemitus,
When our lamentation grows,
Performers: Soloists of Athestis Chorus, Academia de li Musici conducted by Filippo Maria Bressan