Wednesday, 17 February 2016


February 17, 2016 marks the 363rd anniversary of the birth of composer, innovator and virtuosic violinist Arcangelo Corelli, the most influential - and arguably, the most important - figure to come out of Western Classical Music’s late baroque period.

Arcangelo Corelli (compare this image to the Corelli-Vivaldi likeness)
Dubbed the “Founder of the Modern Violin Technique,” Corelli single-handedly brought much attention and praise to the musical art form of concerto grosso[1]  as both an innovator on it’s technique, as a teacher of it’s art form, and composer of the wildly successful set of XII Concerti Grossi, his 6th Opus, first published in 1714 in the year following the musicians death at the ripe age (at least, for that period) of 60. The famed German-turned-British baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel would use these concerti as a model for his own set of XII Concerti Grossi: op. 6.  

Händel wasn’t alone in his reverence for the “world’s greatest violinist” (another moniker attached to the composer by fans and patrons of Corelli): the virtuosic Arcangelo’s innovations on the instrument and the concerto grosso were lauded across the European continent during the composers lifetime and reverence to the musician extended even after his death, with such prolific composers of note paying homage to, and citing the influence of Corelli as an objet d’inspiration: baroque composer Tomaso Albioni of Italy, the young Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, of the then Papal State of “Jesi” (now the Province of Ancona), Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti, composer to Italy and later Spain; Georg Philipp Telemann of the German baroque and Antonio Vivaldi, also of Italy (revered in his day as second only to Corelli) and even Johann Sebastian Bach of Germany was said to have been heavily inspired and influenced by Arcangelo (Bach would pen the “Fugue in B Minor on a Theme by Corelli” (BMV 579) after the Vivace[2] of Corelli’s Trio Sonata Op. 3 no. 4 in c. 1710).

Corelli's XII Concerti Grossi, Op. 6:

Unlike many composers and musicians of the late Baroque and subsequent periods of Western Classical Music, Arcangelo Corelli lived and died in both reverence and wealth. He had acquired the patronage of 17th century gender-bender and Queen of Sweden, the regnant Christina following her abdication to Rome, whom he served until her death, immediately followed by an ecclesiastical post with the clergy under the service of a Cardinal Pamphili (who granted Corelli accommodations at his palace), and later, under Pamphili’s nephew, Cardinal Ottoboni, who paid top dollar for the virtuosos services and who would gainfully employ the musician until the end of his life.

Corelli’s refined taste extended to other areas of the arts – quite literally – his acquisition of many and varied works of art culminated in a substantial sum to be added the late composer’s net worth of 120,000 marks. He died with the wages of a Prince – quite appropriate for a man who dominated the era of late baroque like a King.[3]

Buon compleanno maestro Corelli!

[1]The implementation of two groups of musicians who share the same stage and alternate from a single composition musical material: a minor group of solo instrumentalists, called “concertino”, contrasted by a larger orchestral group (the “ripieno,” or “concerto grosso”).

[2]The fugal subject of the second movement.

[3]In a grand gesture befitting such an important and influential figure of the arts, Arcangelo Corelli's body was interred at the historic Pantheon in Rome, where he is buried alongside High Renaissance painter Raphael.

Listen below to one of my favorite pieces by Corelli, on the "Folia" theme: the Violin Sonata in D Minor (user's pt. I of II):


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