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Giovanni Battista Marella

Giovanni Battista Marella

Today there are only a few people left who are interested in the work of the French composer G. B. Marella. The only piece that is still regularly heard in concert is probably his Suite in A major. But there are so many who await their discovery and wait for an interpreter who cares for them and carries them into the consciousness of a broad public.



The life of G. B. Marella is almost as unknown as his work.

His name first appeared in the late 1740s when he became the first violinist of the “Concert Spirituel” in Paris.


Around 1750 the meanwhile “famous Srg. Marella” moved to Dublin to work as head of the “Band of Musick at the New Gardens“. (Boydell, DMC, p. 142, Fitzgerald / Jellett, p. 212).

For the following years he was a director and instrumentalist (he played both the violin and the viola d´amour) in this city.


Testimonies from this period bear witness to the appreciation he received there.

Signor Marella will perform some new works on the violin. Especially a self-composed, large concert on the viola d’Amore. It is the first time he has played this instrument in this kingdom. Signor Marella and Mr. Deboeck will also play a duet. The whole thing concludes with the popular pieces “Ellin-a-Roon” and the “Kettle-Bender”, both played and varied by Signor Marella.

(Boydell, DMC, pp. 149-5)


In 1754 he married the singer Eleonara Oldmixon, a daughter of the playwright John Oldmixon and in the same year she moved to London.

There they gave their first concert together in the Little Theatre at Haymarket at a “Benefit of the Managers of the Italian Company” (Public Advertiser, 11 January 1755; GDN. Z2001069039) 


During all these years he must have been intensively involved with the guitar, for he was the first guitarist ever to play a solo evening in Great Britain.

In 1758 he published his “Sixty-six lessons for cister or guitar”, in his own words “one of the most impressive collections of unaccompanied solos for this instrument”.

In it he complained, among other things, about the complete ignorance of the beauty and expressiveness of the guitar.


„… to show it to its full extent and out of the desire to expand and facilitate the common rules of teaching, the author felt compelled to publish the following lessons in every key.

He is aware that there will be some who find that these compositions are too difficult, if not impossible to perform on the Cester…. he must tell them that there are many ladies (some of them started with this instrument without even the most rudimentary knowledge of music) who were able to perform the most difficult of them after a few months of teaching.” 


1762 he wrote a second and last work in this style: „Compositions for the Cetra or Guitar, with an Accompanyment, consisting of a Variety of Pieces in every Stile of Music.”


Since the early 1760s his name has hardly been mentioned publicly. It seems that his main occupation since then has been teaching.

In an article in the St. James Chronicle of 1763, one Mr. Marella is mentioned as a “teacher of the guitar and the viola d’amour”. However, it is not certain whether G. B. Marella is involved.


Later he rarely returned to the stage, for example at a big concert for the coronation of George III.

His last documented performance was in 1778, when he played for Abel and J. C. Bach (see McVeigh 2001, p. 170). 


Then his traces are lost again in the darkness of history. He probably settled, together with his wife, in Surrey (in the south of England), but there are no further testimonies about her life.


Only once more does one of his name emerge from the darkness of history. His son did not follow in his footsteps, but reached the rank of an officer in the British army and was later knighted.



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