Personalities | Arcangelo Corelli | Early Baroque | Classical
(Ärk-an’-jel-o Ko-rel’-le) 1653–1713
Italian composer and violinist
Corelli studied in Bologna, but by the mid-1670s was living in Rome, where he acquired a reputation as one of the city’s foremost violinists. His first patron in Rome was the exiled Queen Christina of Sweden, to whom he dedicated his earliest printed collection, 12 trio sonatas op. 1 (1681). Next he worked as director of music for Cardinal Pamphili. From 1690, Corelli’s most important patron was Cardinal Ottoboni, with whom he remained until his death. Ottoboni offered Corelli a secure and artistically stimulating environment in which he was able to perfect styles of composition and performance that were taken as models by younger musicians at home and further afield. It was here that he produced his popular op. 5 (1700), consisting of 12 sonatas. In 1706, Corelli was admitted to the Accademia degli Arcadi, perhaps the most exclusive of many such existing institutions.
Although his only collection of concerti grossi, op. 6, was issued posthumously in 1714, it is evident that Corelli had been preparing them for publication for some time. The concertos fall into two distinct types, concerti da chiesa (church concertos), whose movements are of a predominantly serious nature, and concerti da camera (chamber concertos), which are more closely allied to the dance suite. In all of them, a concertino, typically two violins and a cello, is contrasted with the full complement of instruments, the ripieno.
In his concertos, as in his sets of solo and trio sonatas, Corelli was responsible for codifiying and refining the classic Baroque language of the seventeenth century.
Violin Sonatas, op. 5, Locatelli Trio (Hyperion)
The most famous piece from Corelli’s concerti grossi op. 6 is the ‘Pastorale ad libitum’ at the end of Concerto no. 8, with its Christmas associations. Its origins lie in Italian folk tradition – it is shepherds’ music in the 12/8 rhythm of a Siciliano. The drone bass evokes the piva or folk bagpipe.
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