Marcello Brothers, Alessandro and Benedetto
Alessandro & Benedetto Marcello

Alessandro (1669-1750) and his younger brother Benedetto (1686- 1739) Marcello were born in Venice of a noble Venetian family. Alessandro sang, played the violin and composed music under his academic pseudonym, Eterio Stinfalico. Both brothers were taught to play by their father, a Venetian senator, and took part in the weekly concerts held in their home. Later they were admitted to the Accademia dell' Arcadia in Rome. There however, their careers parted.

Although an amateur, Alessandro was well equipped as a composer: he is best known for his oboe concerto in D minor, available on CD (BMC 14) and as a download, which Bach transcribed for keyboard (BWV 974). In about 1740 he also published at Augsburg a collection of violin solos and wind concertos entitled La Cetra (for two flutes, oboe, bassoon, strings and continuo), which represent the late Venetian Baroque concerto style.

Meanwhile younger brother Benedetto was forced by his father to pursue a career in law, and he was to become influential politically. After being chosen by lot in 1707 to sit on the Grand Council of the Venetian Republic, he held a series of important posts in public service: he was governor of Pula from 1730 to 1737, and chamberlain of Brescia from 1738 until his death; he also worked as an advocate and magistrate.

In spite of these responsibilities, he found time for composition, it being fashionable for noblemen in public service to exhibit talents in various aspects of the arts. His Opus 2 was published in 1712 when he was 26 years of age by Sale of Venice in a version for recorder and harpsichord. The Opus 2 Sonatas were clearly well received and popular, for they were re-printed in about 1715 by Vivaldi's publisher Estienne Roger of Amsterdam, and again subsequently by John Walsh of London in a transcribed version for the German Flute which was then becoming fashionable. The Sonata in F from Opus 2 can be heard on CD (BMC 35) and as a download, performed on harmonica with harpsichord accompaniment.

Our two illustrations above follow the usual pattern of the time, a bewigged head-and-shoulders line engraving. We have placed them in order of age, Alessandro the elder on the left, though his portrait was obviously taken much earlier in life than that of his younger brother who is shown as a very mature statesman.

The Baroque Music Site

       internet arton publications