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Arcangelo Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli Portrait, Hugh HowardArcangelo Corelli

(17 February 1653 - 8 January 1713) was born at Fusignano, a small town not far from Ravenna. Corelli was famous in his own day throughout Europe, and his music even found its way as far as the imperial court of China. He introduced a style of composition, and of performance, which composers in Italy, and many others beyond Italy, affected to imitate because of its purity and elegance of style.  

His fame rests on the relatively small number of compositions, mainly his Op. 5, the 12 Sonatas for Violin, Violone or Harpsichord, and his Op. 6, the 12 Concerti Grossi. The solo sonatas of Op. 5 became the model for later developments, and in the concertos of Op. 6 there is the important interplay between a small group of players and the full complement of strings, a technique probably influenced by the Venetian practice of composers such as Gabrieli and Legrenzi. Corelli received his first music tuition in the towns of Faenza and Lugo before going to Bologna to study with Giovanni Benvenuti, violinist of the chapel of San Petronio  - hence Corelli’s later nickname of Il Bolognese. Leaving Bologna after four years as now an accomplished violinist, he went to Rome. 

By February 1675 he was he was third violinist at the chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi there, and published his first compositions, 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 1 in 1681, dedicating them to Queen Christina of Sweden who, having abdicated because of her conversion to the Catholic Church in Innsbruck in 1655, had taken up residence in Rome. Here Corelli obtained the patronage not only of Queen Christina but also that of Cardinal Pamphili and later, Cardinal Ottoboni, nephew of Pope Alexander VIII (also of the Ottoboni family). 

From 1682-5 Corelli was first violinist at the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. Then from September 1687- November 1690 he was appointed music director at the Palazzo Pamphili, organizing and conducting concerts such as that organised by Queen Christina for the British Ambassador, who had been sent by James II for the coronation of Pope Innocent XII, in an orchestra of no less than 150 string players. He then entered the service of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, whom heserved for the rest of his life, by 1700 becoming conductor and first violinistat his Palazzo della Cancelleria. 

James Drummond, Earl of Perth, writing to his sister the Countess of Errol on 2 November 1695 describes his presence at the Cancelleria in Rome: ‘He has one who is known by the severall names of the Bolognese, Archangelo – for his name is Michael or Corelli, a fiddler, but who courts on him as a gentleman here; the best player on the fiddle that ever was, and the greatest master for composing…’ 

In 1702 Corelli made a visit to Naples, where he probably played in the presence of the King, performing a composition by Alessandro Scarlatti, the contemporary master of the larger forms of oratorio and opera. No secure documentation exists for this, or for his contact with Handel, who was in Rome 1707-8. While in Naples Corelli is said to have praised the opera orchestra there, who played a concerto of his so well on sight that he declared ‘Si suona a Napoli’ (they know how to play in Naples).

After 1708 he retired from public view, perhaps to revise his works. In 1712 he moved out of the Cancelleria into the Palazzo Ermini, a pied-a-terre normally occupied by his brother, his nephew Arcangelo and the many possessions he had accumulated. He died on January 8, 1713, having retired from an active artistic life, and did not live to see publication of his Opus 6, the 12 Concerti Grossi, in Amsterdam, 1714. Concerts of his music were held annually in Italy on the day of his death. 

As a person Corelli was reserved and with drawn, absorbed in his life as a musician. He lived in isolation with exception of a period during which he and his pupil, Matteo Fornari, were inseparable. He is said to have shown no interest in women, and never married. Adverse to making any sort of personal display, he amassed a valuable collection of paintings and violins. The music historian Sir John Hawkins noted that he was ‘remarkable for the mildness of his temper and the modesty of his deportment’. His playing was ‘learned, elegant and pathetic…it was usual for his countenance to be distorted, his eyes to become as red as fire, and his eyeballs to roll as if in agony’. He is known to have insisted on the unanimity of bowing among players of each part. 

His influence in Britain was immense, and although we often think of Handel as the dominant figure in the first half of the 18th century in London, and elsewhere in Britain, Corelli was the more celebrated figure. Musical societies were then being formed, and Corelli’s music was often given pride of place.  The Aberdeen Musical Society, for example, founded in 1748, gave concerts every Friday night in season, at first ‘divided into three acts… in each of which some of Corelli’s Musick shall be performed’. To a large extent Corelli appealed to amateurs because his music was not as difficult technically as that of other composers of string music such as Veracini or Vivaldi. 

As for his contemporaries outside Italy, there is anecdotal evidence that he knew Purcell’s music, but did not like it. He attracted pupils although he was notoriously reluctant to give lessons. This is the testimony of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, who managed to take lessons from him around the same time. Corelli obviously thought highly enough of Clerk’s compositions to play in his Italian cantata, ‘Odo di mesto intorno’, performed at the Duke of Bedford’s residence at Frascati. in 1698.

 

Arcangelo Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli Portrait, Hugh HowardArcangelo Corelli

(17 February 1653 - 8 January 1713) was born at Fusignano, a small town not far from Ravenna. Corelli was famous in his own day throughout Europe, and his music even found its way as far as the imperial court of China. He introduced a style of composition, and of performance, which composers in Italy, and many others beyond Italy, affected to imitate because of its purity and elegance of style.  

His fame rests on the relatively small number of compositions, mainly his Op. 5, the 12 Sonatas for Violin, Violone or Harpsichord, and his Op. 6, the 12 Concerti Grossi. The solo sonatas of Op. 5 became the model for later developments, and in the concertos of Op. 6 there is the important interplay between a small group of players and the full complement of strings, a technique probably influenced by the Venetian practice of composers such as Gabrieli and Legrenzi. Corelli received his first music tuition in the towns of Faenza and Lugo before going to Bologna to study with Giovanni Benvenuti, violinist of the chapel of San Petronio  - hence Corelli’s later nickname of Il Bolognese. Leaving Bologna after four years as now an accomplished violinist, he went to Rome. 

By February 1675 he was he was third violinist at the chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi there, and published his first compositions, 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 1 in 1681, dedicating them to Queen Christina of Sweden who, having abdicated because of her conversion to the Catholic Church in Innsbruck in 1655, had taken up residence in Rome. Here Corelli obtained the patronage not only of Queen Christina but also that of Cardinal Pamphili and later, Cardinal Ottoboni, nephew of Pope Alexander VIII (also of the Ottoboni family). 

From 1682-5 Corelli was first violinist at the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. Then from September 1687- November 1690 he was appointed music director at the Palazzo Pamphili, organizing and conducting concerts such as that organised by Queen Christina for the British Ambassador, who had been sent by James II for the coronation of Pope Innocent XII, in an orchestra of no less than 150 string players. He then entered the service of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, whom heserved for the rest of his life, by 1700 becoming conductor and first violinistat his Palazzo della Cancelleria. 

James Drummond, Earl of Perth, writing to his sister the Countess of Errol on 2 November 1695 describes his presence at the Cancelleria in Rome: ‘He has one who is known by the severall names of the Bolognese, Archangelo – for his name is Michael or Corelli, a fiddler, but who courts on him as a gentleman here; the best player on the fiddle that ever was, and the greatest master for composing…’ 

In 1702 Corelli made a visit to Naples, where he probably played in the presence of the King, performing a composition by Alessandro Scarlatti, the contemporary master of the larger forms of oratorio and opera. No secure documentation exists for this, or for his contact with Handel, who was in Rome 1707-8. While in Naples Corelli is said to have praised the opera orchestra there, who played a concerto of his so well on sight that he declared ‘Si suona a Napoli’ (they know how to play in Naples).

After 1708 he retired from public view, perhaps to revise his works. In 1712 he moved out of the Cancelleria into the Palazzo Ermini, a pied-a-terre normally occupied by his brother, his nephew Arcangelo and the many possessions he had accumulated. He died on January 8, 1713, having retired from an active artistic life, and did not live to see publication of his Opus 6, the 12 Concerti Grossi, in Amsterdam, 1714. Concerts of his music were held annually in Italy on the day of his death. 

As a person Corelli was reserved and with drawn, absorbed in his life as a musician. He lived in isolation with exception of a period during which he and his pupil, Matteo Fornari, were inseparable. He is said to have shown no interest in women, and never married. Adverse to making any sort of personal display, he amassed a valuable collection of paintings and violins. The music historian Sir John Hawkins noted that he was ‘remarkable for the mildness of his temper and the modesty of his deportment’. His playing was ‘learned, elegant and pathetic…it was usual for his countenance to be distorted, his eyes to become as red as fire, and his eyeballs to roll as if in agony’. He is known to have insisted on the unanimity of bowing among players of each part. 

His influence in Britain was immense, and although we often think of Handel as the dominant figure in the first half of the 18th century in London, and elsewhere in Britain, Corelli was the more celebrated figure. Musical societies were then being formed, and Corelli’s music was often given pride of place.  The Aberdeen Musical Society, for example, founded in 1748, gave concerts every Friday night in season, at first ‘divided into three acts… in each of which some of Corelli’s Musick shall be performed’. To a large extent Corelli appealed to amateurs because his music was not as difficult technically as that of other composers of string music such as Veracini or Vivaldi. 

As for his contemporaries outside Italy, there is anecdotal evidence that he knew Purcell’s music, but did not like it. He attracted pupils although he was notoriously reluctant to give lessons. This is the testimony of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, who managed to take lessons from him around the same time. Corelli obviously thought highly enough of Clerk’s compositions to play in his Italian cantata, ‘Odo di mesto intorno’, performed at the Duke of Bedford’s residence at Frascati. in 1698.

 

Arcangelo Corelli

 

Arcangelo Corelli Portrait, Hugh HowardArcangelo Corelli

(17 February 1653 - 8 January 1713) was born at Fusignano, a small town not far from Ravenna. Corelli was famous in his own day throughout Europe, and his music even found its way as far as the imperial court of China. He introduced a style of composition, and of performance, which composers in Italy, and many others beyond Italy, affected to imitate because of its purity and elegance of style.  

His fame rests on the relatively small number of compositions, mainly his Op. 5, the 12 Sonatas for Violin, Violone or Harpsichord, and his Op. 6, the 12 Concerti Grossi. The solo sonatas of Op. 5 became the model for later developments, and in the concertos of Op. 6 there is the important interplay between a small group of players and the full complement of strings, a technique probably influenced by the Venetian practice of composers such as Gabrieli and Legrenzi. Corelli received his first music tuition in the towns of Faenza and Lugo before going to Bologna to study with Giovanni Benvenuti, violinist of the chapel of San Petronio  - hence Corelli’s later nickname of Il Bolognese. Leaving Bologna after four years as now an accomplished violinist, he went to Rome. 

By February 1675 he was he was third violinist at the chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi there, and published his first compositions, 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 1 in 1681, dedicating them to Queen Christina of Sweden who, having abdicated because of her conversion to the Catholic Church in Innsbruck in 1655, had taken up residence in Rome. Here Corelli obtained the patronage not only of Queen Christina but also that of Cardinal Pamphili and later, Cardinal Ottoboni, nephew of Pope Alexander VIII (also of the Ottoboni family). 

From 1682-5 Corelli was first violinist at the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. Then from September 1687- November 1690 he was appointed music director at the Palazzo Pamphili, organizing and conducting concerts such as that organised by Queen Christina for the British Ambassador, who had been sent by James II for the coronation of Pope Innocent XII, in an orchestra of no less than 150 string players. He then entered the service of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, whom heserved for the rest of his life, by 1700 becoming conductor and first violinistat his Palazzo della Cancelleria. 

James Drummond, Earl of Perth, writing to his sister the Countess of Errol on 2 November 1695 describes his presence at the Cancelleria in Rome: ‘He has one who is known by the severall names of the Bolognese, Archangelo – for his name is Michael or Corelli, a fiddler, but who courts on him as a gentleman here; the best player on the fiddle that ever was, and the greatest master for composing…’ 

In 1702 Corelli made a visit to Naples, where he probably played in the presence of the King, performing a composition by Alessandro Scarlatti, the contemporary master of the larger forms of oratorio and opera. No secure documentation exists for this, or for his contact with Handel, who was in Rome 1707-8. While in Naples Corelli is said to have praised the opera orchestra there, who played a concerto of his so well on sight that he declared ‘Si suona a Napoli’ (they know how to play in Naples).

After 1708 he retired from public view, perhaps to revise his works. In 1712 he moved out of the Cancelleria into the Palazzo Ermini, a pied-a-terre normally occupied by his brother, his nephew Arcangelo and the many possessions he had accumulated. He died on January 8, 1713, having retired from an active artistic life, and did not live to see publication of his Opus 6, the 12 Concerti Grossi, in Amsterdam, 1714. Concerts of his music were held annually in Italy on the day of his death. 

As a person Corelli was reserved and with drawn, absorbed in his life as a musician. He lived in isolation with exception of a period during which he and his pupil, Matteo Fornari, were inseparable. He is said to have shown no interest in women, and never married. Adverse to making any sort of personal display, he amassed a valuable collection of paintings and violins. The music historian Sir John Hawkins noted that he was ‘remarkable for the mildness of his temper and the modesty of his deportment’. His playing was ‘learned, elegant and pathetic…it was usual for his countenance to be distorted, his eyes to become as red as fire, and his eyeballs to roll as if in agony’. He is known to have insisted on the unanimity of bowing among players of each part. 

His influence in Britain was immense, and although we often think of Handel as the dominant figure in the first half of the 18th century in London, and elsewhere in Britain, Corelli was the more celebrated figure. Musical societies were then being formed, and Corelli’s music was often given pride of place.  The Aberdeen Musical Society, for example, founded in 1748, gave concerts every Friday night in season, at first ‘divided into three acts… in each of which some of Corelli’s Musick shall be performed’. To a large extent Corelli appealed to amateurs because his music was not as difficult technically as that of other composers of string music such as Veracini or Vivaldi. 

As for his contemporaries outside Italy, there is anecdotal evidence that he knew Purcell’s music, but did not like it. He attracted pupils although he was notoriously reluctant to give lessons. This is the testimony of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, who managed to take lessons from him around the same time. Corelli obviously thought highly enough of Clerk’s compositions to play in his Italian cantata, ‘Odo di mesto intorno’, performed at the Duke of Bedford’s residence at Frascati. in 1698.