Arcangelo Corelli (1683-1713) is one of the eighteenth-century’s best-known violin players and composers. Although Corelli wrote a limited number of pieces, his compositions are a very important contribution to the violin repertoire, and greatly advanced violin technique. He composed 6 collected works, including sonatas for violin and basso continuo, trio sonatas (a multi-movement piece for 2 violins and continuo), and concerti grossi (a 3-movement concerto for more than one solo instrument and orchestral accompaniment).
Corelli was born 1683 in Fusignano, a small town between Bologna and Ravenna, into a wealthy family. Having first studied music with a priest in the nearby town of Faenza, Corelli moved to the musical city of Bologna in 1666 to continue his studies when he was just 14 years old. Bologna was home to many of Italy’s finest composers and musicians, including Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692) and Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709), and the young Arcangelo flourished among these prominent musicians, matriculating in the prestigious Accademia Filharmonica di Bologna in 1670.
Corelli’s place as one of the most prominent violinists in Italy took hold shortly after his arrival in Rome around 1675. He performed in high-level concerts for many of Rome’s prominent figures, including Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili (1653-1730), an influential figure and a strong patron of the arts. Throughout his musical career, Corelli took on many roles beyond performing and composition, including conducting orchestras and directing theatrical productions. Corelli passed away in 1713, and was buried in the Pantheon.
Opus 1, a collection of 12 trio sonatas (church sonatas), was dedicated on April 30th, 1681.
Sonata “La Folia”, for violin and keyboard; Opus 5, no. 12 (1700). This sonata is based on a popular dance melody known as “la folia” (the folly) that originated in Portugal. The dance gained popularity throughout Europe in the 16th–18th centuries, and was used in over 150 compositions.
The Christmas Concerto for 2 solo violins, string orchestra, and continuo; Opus 6, no. 8 (1714). This popular concerto grosso was written for Christmas, with the given title Fatto per la notte di Natale (“Made for the night of Christmas”).
This article about Corelli is the first installment of JSI’s blog:
Gut Feeling: A Look at String Players of the Past.
Musicologist Stephen Loikith holds Bachelor’s Degrees in music from Lebanon Valley College and a Master’s of Fine Arts from Brandeis University. His research focuses on producing specialized concerts in the Boston area, including a concert in 2014 for viol consort produced as a part of Sudbury’s and Wayland’s 375th anniversary celebrations. Additionally, he is a free-lance French hornist. Stephen has been a part of Johnson String Instrument since 2009, and is a part of the Receiving and Inventory Control department.