ALESSANDRO MARCELLO Adagio from Oboe Concerto
For this issue Bridget Mermikides arranges and tabs a glorious woodwind piece by a noble Italian polymath!
Bridget arranges and transcribes a piece that transfers surprisingly well from orchestra and lead oboe to solo nylon-string guitar.
Alessandro Marcello (1669-1747) was an Italian nobleman and composer whose privileged lifestyle allowed him to excel at several pursuits including mathematics, poetry, philosophy and of course music. Although he produced a relatively small compositional output (including several cantatas, violin sonatas and concertos and arias), he was well respected and received endorsement by no lesser a musician than his contemporary Johann Sebastian Bach. The Baroque master (and one of the greatest Western Art composer of all time) arranged Marcello’s most famous work Concerto for Oboe and Strings in D minor, op. 1 for harpsichord and is catalogued as Concerto for solo keyboard No. 3 in D minor (after Alessandro Marcello) BWV 974. While much of the work is close to the original, Bach also thickened the contrapuntal textures and ornamental decoration in his characteristic style.
It is however the open, almost minimalistic nature of Marcello’s writing, particularly in the adagio, which – although perhaps not perceived as particularly sophisticated in his contemporary context – which may explain its enduring popularity. There is an unfussy and soaring clarity to the movement with its open sonorities and elegant melody which sounds as much ‘contemporary classical’ as it does Baroque, and it persists not only within the standard oboe repertoire, but also in flim scores such as The Firm (1993), Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) and The House of Mirth (2000).
I’ve managed to keep the original key of D minor here and have used drop D for added resonance and idiomatic convenience. I’ve used a ‘black style’ accompaniment to mimic the strings of the original, above which the elegant and ornamented melody should float. There are three key challenges here. 1) The maintenance of the chords in a slow but consistent rhythmic smoothness (requiring proper fretting-hand preparation and absorption of the piece). 2) Making the melody heard against the accompaniment (which involves balancing the volume of accompaniment and melody). 3) Expressive legato melody (involving fretting-hand accuracy of slurs and trills).
Patient practice plus the notation/tab captions will help with all three of the challenges, as will the (new for this feature) accompanying video. I hope you enjoy learning and playing this timeless work.