Music for Pentecost 11 — Sunday August 21, 2022

Psalm XIX – Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)

Benedetto Marcello, a younger contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi in Venice, was a prolific composer of cantata, oratorios, cantatas, sonatas, and concerti and sinfonias. He is best-known for his Estro poetico-armonico: a musical setting for voices of the first fifty Psalms.

This Sunday’s postlude in church is a transcription of Latin Vulgate Psalm 18 of Estro poetico-armonico “I cieli immensi narrano,” which we know as Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God ; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

Marcello set his chorale version of this Psalm in antiphonal style, which marvellously reflects the poetic device of parallelism – where a poetic line exists of two halves, with the second part saying what has already been expressed in the first, whilst varying the words.

On the organ this antiphonal style is reflected by majestic sections on the Great Organ alternating with echo-like sections on the Choir Organ.

PJ Janson