By Mary Nemet | From the January-February 2022 issue of Strings magazine

Benedetto Marcello’s six sonatas for cello and basso continuo were published in 1732, of which the first and best-known is presented here. As quintessential educational works for advanced beginners as well as practice material for improvised ornamentation of Baroque music, the sonatas today have a firm place in the cellist’s repertoire. However, with no extant autograph or contemporary manuscript copies (not uncommon for this period), doubt remains regarding their authenticity, because when they first appeared in 1732, Marcello had long since curtailed his instrumental writing, by then penning primarily religious works.



Benedetto Marcello: Sonata No. 1 in F for Cello & Basso Continuo
G. Henle Verlag, $12.95

The Venetian-born Marcello (1686–1739) was very prominent in Italian musical life in the early 18th century, writing his Concerti a Cinque in 1708, followed by his dozen flute sonatas, Op. 2. However, a long gap ensued before the cello sonatas saw the light of day in an Amsterdam edition of 1732. This Henle edition is based on the Amsterdam version. Today’s scholars maintain the sonatas were written long before 1732 and are therefore authentic.

Interestingly, the scoring of the sonatas lies in an unusually high register, and could well be conceived for a viola da gamba. It gives rise to awkward cello fingering because the tuning and stringing of the cello in Marcello’s time were not yet standardized. A five-string tuning in fifths with an additional E string was common, making the faster passages easier to play.

Edited by Annette Oppermann, this fine Henle printing includes an extensive Preface and Commentary, a figured cembalo score, a cello and basso score written one above the other, and a separate cello part with useful fingering and bowing by Thomas Klein.