Benedetto Marcello

Benedetto Marcello (1686 – 1739) was an Italian composer, writer, advocate, magistrate, and teacher. Benedetto was the brother of Alessandro Marcello, also a notable composer.

Composer full Name: Benedetto Giacomo Marcello
Date of Birth: 31 July or 1 August 1686
Date of Death: 24 July 1739
Nationality: Italian
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque & Early Gelante
Biography: Born in Venice, Benedetto Marcello was a member of a noble family and his compositions are frequently referred to as Patrizio Veneto. Although he was a music student of Antonio Lotti and Francesco Gasparini, his father wanted Benedetto to devote himself to law. Benedetto managed to combine a life in law and public service with one in music. In 1711 he was appointed a member of the Council of Forty (in Venice’s central government), and in 1730 he went to Pola as Provveditore (district governor). Due to his health having been “impaired by the climate” of Istria, Marcello retired after eight years in the capacity of Camerlengo to Brescia where he died of tuberculosis in 1739.

Benedetto Marcello was the brother of Alessandro Marcello, also a notable composer. On 20 May 1728 Benedetto Marcello married his singing student Rosanna Scalfiin a secret ceremony. However, as a nobleman his marriage to a commoner was unlawful and after Marcello’s death the marriage was declared null by the state. Rosanna was unable to inherit his estate, and filed suit in 1742 against Benedetto’s brother Alessandro Marcello, seeking financial support.


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Chamber Works
Vocal & Choral Works

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Date of Birth: 31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685
Date of Death: 28 July 1750
Nationality: German
Period/Era/Style: Baroque
Contribution(s): J. S. Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations, and vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach Revival he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

The Bach family already counted several composers when Johann Sebastian was born as the last child of a city musician in Eisenach. Having become an orphan at age 10, he lived for five years with his eldest brother, after which he continued his musical formation in Lüneburg. From 1703 he was back in Thuringia, working as a musician for Protestant churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen and, for longer stretches of time, at courts in Weimar—where he expanded his repertoire for the organ—and Köthen—where he was mostly engaged with chamber music. From 1723 he was employed as Thomaskantor (cantor at St. Thomas) in Leipzig. He composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city, and for its university’s student ensemble Collegium Musicum. From 1726 he published some of his keyboard and organ music. In Leipzig, as had happened in some of his earlier positions, he had a difficult relation with his employer, a situation that was little remedied when he was granted the title of court composer by the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland in 1736. In the last decades of his life he reworked and extended many of his earlier compositions. He died of complications after eye surgery in 1750.

Bach enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, harmonic and motivicorganisation, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach’s compositions include hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular. He composed Latin church music, Passions, oratorios and motets. He often adopted Lutheran hymns, not only in his larger vocal works, but for instance also in his four-part chorales and his sacred songs. He wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments. He composed concertos, for instance for violin and for harpsichord, and suites, as chamber music as well as for orchestra. Many of his works employ the genres of canon and fugue.

Throughout the 18th century Bach was primarily valued as an organist, while his keyboard music, such as The Well-Tempered Clavier, was appreciated for its didactic qualities. The 19th century saw the publication of some major Bach biographies, and by the end of that century all of his known music had been printed. Dissemination of scholarship on the composer continued through periodicals and websites exclusively devoted to him, and other publications such as the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis(BWV, a numbered catalogue of his works) and new critical editions of his compositions. His music was further popularised through a multitude of arrangements, including for instance the Air on the G String, and of recordings, for instance three different box sets with complete performances of the composer’s oeuvre marking the 250th anniversary of his death.

Biography:  Life: Childhood (1685–1703)   |   Weimar, Arnstadt, and Mühlhausen (1703–1708)   |   Return to Weimar (1708–1717)   |   Köthen (1717–1723)   |   Leipzig (1723–1750)

Musical style: Four-part harmony   |   Modulations   |   Ornamentation   |   Giving soloist roles to continuo instruments   |   Instrumentation   |   Counterpoint   |    Structure, lyrics

Compositions: Passions and oratorios   |   Cantatas   |   A cappella music   |   Church music in Latin   |   Keyboard music   |   Orchestral and chamber music   |   Copies, arrangements and works with an uncertain attribution

Reception: 18th century   |   19th century   |   20th century   |   21st century   |   Burial site   |   Recognition in Protestant churches


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Georg Philipp Telemann

Composer: Georg Philipp Telemann
Date of Birth: 24 March [O.S. 14 March] 1681
Date of Death: 25 June 1767
Nationality: German
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque / Early Gelante
Contribution(s): Telemann was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family’s wishes. After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld, and Hildesheim, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig to study law, but eventually settled on a career in music. He held important positions in Leipzig, Sorau, Eisenach, and Frankfurt before settling in Hamburg in 1721, where he became musical director of the five main churches. While Telemann’s career prospered, his personal life was always troubled: his first wife died only a few months after their marriage, and his second wife had extramarital affairs and accumulated a large gambling debt before leaving Telemann.

Telemann is one of the most prolific composers in history (at least in terms of surviving oeuvre) and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time—he was compared favorably both to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, who made Telemann the godfather and namesake of his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also knew personally. Telemann’s music incorporates several national styles (French, Italian, German) and is even at times influenced by Polish popular music. He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.

Biography: Early life (1681–1712)   |   Frankfurt (1712–21)   |   Hamburg (1721–67)   |   Legacy and influence



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George Frideric Handel

Composer: George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel born Georg Friedrich Händel
Date of Birth: 23 February 1685
Date of Death: 14 April 1759
Nationality: Ggerman
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque
Contribution(s): Handel was a German, later British, baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel received important training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712; he became a naturalised British subject in 1727. He was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and by the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.

Within fifteen years, Handel had started three commercial opera companies to supply the English nobility with Italian opera. Musicologist Winton Dean writes that his operas show that “Handel was not only a great composer; he was a dramatic genius of the first order.” As Alexander’s Feast (1736) was well received, Handel made a transition to English choral works. After his success with Messiah (1742) he never composed an Italian opera again. Almost blind, and having lived in England for nearly fifty years, he died in 1759, a respected and rich man. His funeral was given full state honours, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey in London.

Born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, Handel is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with works such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiahremaining steadfastly popular. One of his four Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest (1727), composed for the coronation of George II, has been performed at every subsequent British coronation, traditionally during the sovereign’s anointing. Another of his English oratorios, Solomon (1748), has also remained popular, with the Sinfonia that opens act 3 (known more commonly as “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”) featuring at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. Handel composed more than forty operas in over thirty years, and since the late 1960s, with the revival of baroque music and historically informed musical performance, interest in Handel’s operas has grown.

Biography: Halle: Early years   |   Family   |   Early education   |   Musical education   |   After the death of Handel’s father   |   University   |   Halle compositions   |   From Halle to Italy   |   Move to London: Cannons (1717–18)   |   Royal Academy of Music (1719–34)   |   Opera at Covent Garden (1734–41)   |   Oratorio   |   Later years   |   Works: Catalogues   |   Legacy: Reception   |   Borrowings   |   Homages   |   Veneration   |   Fictional depictions

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Jean Gilles

Composer: Jean Hyacinthe Theodore Gilles
Date of Birth: 08 January 1668
Date of Death: 05 February 1705
Nationality: French
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque / Early galante
Contribution(s): Gilles was a French composer, born at Tarascon.

Biography: After receiving his musical training as a choirboy at the Cathedral of Saint-Sauveur at Aix-en-Provence, he succeeded his teacher Guillaume Poitevin as music master there. After moving on several times, he became music master at the Cathedral of St Etienne at Toulouse in 1697, as the successor of André Campra. His musical style was influenced by Campra, as were most musicians of his day. He composed motets and a famous requiem, which was performed for the first time at his own funeral (because the original commissioner thought it too expensive to perform), but was later sung at the funeral services for the Stanisław Leszczyński, King of Poland in 1736, Jean-Philippe Rameau in 1764, and Louis XV in 1774. His motets were played frequently[1] from 1728 to 1771 at the Concert Spirituel.

His choral works often alternate passages sung by the soloists with those sung by the chorus. In 1752, in Lettres sur les hommes célèbres du règne de Louis XIV, Pierre-Louis d’Aquin said that Gilles would doubtless have replaced Lalande if he had lived long enough. Gilles died suddenly at the age of 37 in Toulouse.

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Giuseppe Sammartini

Composer: Giuseppe Francesco Gaspare Melchiorre Baldassare Sammartini (also Gioseffo, S Martini, St Martini, San Martini, San Martino, Martini, Martino)
Date of Birth: 06 January 1695
Date of Death: between 17 to 23 November 1750
Nationality: Italian
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque / Early Classical / Early Galante
Contribution(s): Sammartini was an Italian composer and oboist during the late Baroque and early Classical era. Although he was from Milan, most of his professional life was spent in London and with Frederick, the Prince of Wales. He is often confused with his brother, Giovanni Battista Sammartini, a composer with a similarly prolific output (and the same initials).
Biography: Personal life: Giuseppe Sammartini was born in Milan, Italy. He had a younger brother, Giovanni Battista Sammartini, who also became a particularly renowned composer and oboist. Both brothers took oboelessons from their French father Alexis Saint-Martin. Although born in Milan, Giuseppe found his success in other parts of Europe. His first trip was to Brussels, and from there he made his way to London where he would go on to spend the rest of his life. Giuseppe did return to Milan for his sister Madalena’s marriage on 13 February 1728. In July 1728 Giuseppe also travelled to Brussels with his pupil Gaetano Parenti.

Performer: Sammartini was an exceptionally skilled oboist. He could play the flute and recorder, as was customary at the time. Before moving to London, Giuseppe was the oboist at S. Celso in Milan around 1717. He then became the oboist at the Regio Ducal Teatro in 1720. He even gained fame in London as “the greatest [oboist] the world had ever known.” He performed in places such as Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Hickford’s Room, Castle concerts, and in the opera orchestra at the King’s Theatre. As an oboist, Giuseppe was unbelievably successful, and significantly advanced the level of oboe playing. Giuseppe was even able to make the oboe sound voice-like at times. One of his most notable students was the Englishman Thomas Vincent.

Composer: He was well versed in the ways of counterpoint and proper harmony. This made him a very skilled composer of his time. One of Giuseppe’s first published collections was a set of 12 trio sonatas. It was published in London by Walsh & Hare. Sammartini’s career as a composer advanced when he was hired as the music master for the Prince of Wales, Frederick, and his wife Augusta. He worked for them and their children from 1736 until his death in 1750. While working for the family, Sammartini dedicated many works to the different members of the family. His 12 sonatas op. 1 were dedicated to Frederick, and his 12 trios op. 3 to Augusta. Sammartini was clearly very attached to this family, writing everything from these wonderful collections to simple birthday tunes for the children.

Most of Sammartini’s chamber music was played and re-published regularly during his life. However, many of the concertos and overtures that Sammartini wrote were not published until after his death, but then gained wide acceptance, even more than other Italian composers such as Corelli.

Musical style: Although Sammartini wrote in a later Baroque style, he also incorporated many Classical elements. Sammartini was forward thinking as a composer, and even used ideas such as a galant style and “Sturm und Drang,” (the idea of extreme and stormy emotions). Sammartini had other clearly forward thinking musical trends. An example of this would be the number of movements in some of his concertos and symphonies. Being primarily an instrumental composer, Sammartini wrote a significant amount of solo sonatas. Due to his professional instrument, many of these sonatas were written for the flute, recorder, and oboe. One of his unique idioms was starting a sonata with a slow movement. His larger orchestral works often featured four to five movements with slow transitional movements. Giuseppe Sammartini was one of the first composers to write keyboard concertos in England, causing him to be an exceptionally influential composer for his time.

Works: 24 sonatas for recorder and bass, 30 trios for flutes or violins, 24 concerti grossi, 4 keyboard concertos, oboe concertos, 16 overtures, some cello sonatas, some flute duets.

Sammartini’s most famous piece is without question his Recorder Concerto in F.

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Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

Composer: Giovanni Battista Draghi Pergolesi
Date of Birth: 04 January 1710
Date of Death: 16 March 1736
Nationality: Italian
Period/Era/Style: Late Baroque
Contribution(s): Pergolesi, was an Italian composer, violinist and organist.

Biography: Born in Jesi in what is now the Province of Ancona (but was then part of the Papal States), he was commonly given the nickname “Pergolesi”, a demonym indicating in Italian the residents of PergolaMarche, the birthplace of his ancestors. He studied music in Jesi under a local musician, Francesco Santini, before going to Naples in 1725, where he studied under Gaetano Greco and Francesco Feo among others. On leaving the conservatory in 1731, he won some renown by performing the oratorio in two parts La fenice sul rogo, o vero La morte di San Giuseppe (it) (“The Phoenix on the Pyre, or The Death of Saint Joseph”), and the dramma sacro in three acts, Li prodigi della divina grazia nella conversione e morte di san Guglielmo duca d’Aquitania (“The Miracles of Divine Grace in the Conversion and Death of Saint William, Duke of Aquitaine”). He spent most of his brief life working for aristocratic patrons like Ferdinando Colonna, Prince of Stigliano, and Domenico Marzio Carafa, Duke of Maddaloni.

Pergolesi was one of the most important early composers of opera buffa (comic opera). His opera seriaIl prigionier superbo, contained the two-act buffa intermezzoLa serva padrona (The Servant Mistress, 28 August 1733), which became a very popular work in its own right. When it was performed in Paris in 1752, it prompted the so-called Querelle des Bouffons (“quarrel of the comic actors”) between supporters of serious French opera by the likes of Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau and supporters of new Italian comic opera. Pergolesi was held up as a model of the Italian style during this quarrel, which divided Paris’s musical community for two years.

Among Pergolesi’s other operatic works are his first opera La Salustia (1732), Lo frate ‘nnamorato (The brother in love, 1732, to a text in the Neapolitan language), L’Olimpiade (January 1735) and Il Flaminio (1735, to a text in the Neapolitan language). All his operas were premiered in Naples, apart from L’Olimpiade, which was first given in Rome.

Pergolesi also wrote sacred music, including a Mass in F and three Salve Regina settings. It is his Stabat Mater (1736), however, for sopranoaltostring orchestra and basso continuo, which is his best-known sacred work. It was commissioned by the Confraternita dei Cavalieri di San Luigi di Palazzo, which presented an annual Good Friday meditation in honor of the Virgin Mary. Pergolesi’s work replaced one composed by Alessandro Scarlatti only nine years before, but which was already perceived as “old-fashioned,” so rapidly had public tastes changed. The Lenten Hymn ‘God of Mercy and Compassion’ by Redemptorist priest Edmund Vaughan is most commonly set to a tune adapted by Pergolesi.

While classical in scope, the opening section of the setting demonstrates Pergolesi’s mastery of the Italian baroque durezze e ligature style, characterized by numerous suspensions over a faster, conjunct bassline. The work remained popular, becoming the most frequently printed musical work of the 18th century, and being arranged by a number of other composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, who reorchestrated and adapted it for a non-Marian text in his cantata Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden (Root out my sins, Highest One), BWV 1083.

Pergolesi wrote a number of secular instrumental works, including a violin sonata and a violin concerto. A considerable number of instrumental and sacred works once attributed to Pergolesi have since been shown to be misattributed. Much of Igor Stravinsky‘s ballet Pulcinella, which ostensibly reworks pieces by Pergolesi, is actually based on works by other composers, especially Domenico Gallo. The Concerti Armonici are now known to have been composed by Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer. Many colorful anecdotes related by Pergolesi’s 19th-century biographer, Francesco Florimo, were later revealed as hoaxes, though they had furnished material for two 19th-century operas broadly based on Pergolesi’s career.

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi died on 16 March 1736 at the age of 26 in Pozzuoli from tuberculosis and was buried at the Franciscan monastery one day later.

Pergolesi was the subject of a 1932 Italian film biopic Pergolesi. It was directed by Guido Brignone with Elio Steiner playing the role of the composer.

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