Arcangelo Corelli

(17 February 1653, Fusignano – 8 January 1713, Rome)


Born in a family of land owners, Arcangelo Corelli (name received after the death of his father who was also named Arcangelo) was an Italian violinist and composer of the Baroque era. Though there are some anecdotes circulating, there actually isn't any reliable contemporary evidence documenting events in his life. It is thought that his first teacher was the curate of San Savino, a village on the outskirts of Fusignano. According to the poet Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni, who presumably knew the composer well, Corelli first studied music under a priest in the nearby town of Faenza, then Lugo, before moving in 1666 to Bologna.

At that time, Bologna was a major centre of musical culture, it had a flourishing school of violinists associated with Ercole Gaibara and his pupils. Chronicles of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna indicate that the young Corelli, aged 17, was accepted as a member by 1670. The credibility of this attribution has been disputed, although the nickname Il Bolognese appears on the title-pages of Corelli's first three published sets of works (opus 1 to 3).

Although it is unclear quite when Corelli arrived in Rome, by February 3, 1675,he was already third violinist in the orchestra of the chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi, and by the following year he was second violinist. By 1679 he had entered the service of Queen Christina of Sweden, who had taken up residence in Rome 1655.

In 1687 Corelli led the festival performances of music for her patroness, Queen Christina of Sweden. Although Corelli used only a limited portion of his instrument's capabilities, he played an important role in the development of violin playing, his style of execution was later preserved by his pupils such as Francesco Geminiani, Pietro Locatelli, Pietro Castrucci, Francesco Gasparini and others. Nevertheless, his instrumental compositions are considered pillars in the history of chamber music.

His legacy can be divided in three ways: as a violinist, composer and teacher. As a violinist, it is probably safe to say that Corelli's popularity was as great in his time as was Paganini's during the 19th century. This period didn't emphasize on the virtuous skills of a violinist but rather on the beautiful singing tone alone for which Corelli was well known as his tone quality was the most remarkable in all Europe according to reports. He was also the first person to organize the basic elements of violin technique.

His notoriety as a violinist was equaled by his acclaim as a composer. His instrumental music was the most popular, as a result of being played all over Europe. One of Corelli's famous students, Geminiani, thought so much of the Opus 5 Sonatas that he arranged all the works in that group as Concerti Grossi. However, it is in his own Concerti Grossi Opus 6 that Corelli reached his creative peak and climaxed all his musical contributions.

Although he wasn't the inventor of the Concerto Grosso principle, he did prove the potentials of the form, popularized it and wrote the first great music for it. It's safe to say that Corelli paved the way for Vivaldi, Handel, and Bach's concerto grosso masterpieces. This form (the concerto grosso form) is build on the principle of contrasting two differently sized instrumental groups. In Corelli's works, the smaller group consists of two violins and a cello while the larger of a string orchestra.

Corelli's achievements as a teacher were outstanding, Antonio Vivaldi was one of his many students and it was he who became Corelli's successor as a composer of the great Concerti Grossi and who greatly influenced the music of Bach.

His compositions include: 48 trio sonatas, 12 violin and continuo sonatas and 12 concerti grossi

 Here you can find a list with Arcangelo Corelli's compositions.