Arcangelo Corelli, Concerto in D Major Op. 6 No. 4, 1714, Performed by the Voices of Music Ensemble
Born on February 17, 1653 in Fusignano, Papal States, Italy, Arcangelo Corelli was a violinist and composer of the Italian Baroque era, whose family were prosperous landowners, but not of the nobility. Known chiefly for his influence on the development of violin style and for his sonatas, Corelli’s “12 Concert Grossi “ established the contrast between a small group of soloists and the full orchestra as a popular compositional medium.
Historical records of the poet Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni, founder of the celebrated Academy of Arcadians, state Arcangelo Corelli initially studied music under priests, first in the city of Faenza and then in Lugo, before he moved in 1666 to Bologna, a major center of musical culture. Plausible, but largely unconfirmed, historical accounts link his musical education with several master violinists, including Giovanni Benvenuti, Bartolomeo Laurenti, and Giovanni Battista Bassani.
Although it is unclear exactly when Corelli arrived in Rome, it is known that he was actively engaged as a violinist in 1675. He played as one of the supporting violinists in three Lenten oratorios: one at the church of San Giovanni dei Florentini, one held on August 25th for a celebration at the church San Luigi dei Francesi, and one for the ordination ceremony of a noble Chigi family member held at the church Santi Domenico e Sisto. By February of 1675, Corelli was third violinist in the Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi’s orchestra in Rome; by the following year Corelli was second violinist.
Corelli rapidly gain a reputation by playing in a number of ensembles sponsored by wealthy patrons at San Marcello al Corso, for whom he played in oratorios during the Lenten seasons from 1671 to 1679. In June of 1677, Corelli completed and sent his first composition “Sonata for Violin and Lute” to Count Fabrizio Laderchi, a noble in Faenza attached to the household of Prince Francesco Maria de Medici. Corelli’s “Twelve Trio Sonatas (Two Violins and Cello, with Organ Basso Continuo), Opus 1”, dedicated to Queen Christina of Sweden, was published in 1681.
From September 1687 to November 1690, Arcangelo Corelli was musical director at the Palazzo Pamphili, where he performed and conducted important musical events, Including conducting an orchestra of one hundred fifty strings for Queen Christina. A favorite of the great music patron Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, Corelli in 1690 entered into the Cardinal’s service where he performed in concerts at Ottoboni’s Palazzo della Cancelleria. Joining him at these concerts were the violinist Matteo Fornari, the cellist G. B. Lulier from Spain, and the harpsichordist Bernardo Pasquini, and other orchestral players.
Corelli had first met Matteo Fornari in 1682, and they soon developed an intimate relationship which lasted until Corelli’s death. Socially protected by Ottoboni and living discreetly among male friends, they devoted their time together to the pursuit of their music which included many performances played together. Their relationship became the inspiration for two compositions by their friend Giuseppe Valentini, who dedicated his trio sonatas to both Corelli and Fornari. During this period, Corelli quietly developed his best-known and most influential works, the orchestral “Concerti Grossi”, and also became one of the most renowned violin teachers, who taught such students as Gasparini, Castrucci, and Locatelli.
In 1702, Corelli went to Naples and performed a composition by the Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti, a performance which was probably performed in the presence of its regent, King Philip IV. In 1706, together with composer Bernardo Pasquini and Scarlatti, Corelli was received into the Pontifical Academy of Arcadia in Rome and conducted a concert for the occasion. By 1708 he withdrew from public view and began to revise his compositions. A contemporary of both Lully and Handel, Corelli died in Rome on the 8th of January in 1713.
Arcangelo Corelli left his large art collection of paintings, all his instruments and music, and all future proceeds from it, to Matteo Fornari who readied Corelli’s unpublished “Op. 6 Concertos” for publication with Estienne Roger of Amsterdam. By special decree from the Pope, Corelli was buried next to Raphael in the section of the Pantheon in Rome that holds the remains of painters and architects.
Arcangelo Corelli’s “Concerto in D Major Op. 6”, was published in 1714 in Amsterdam and dramatically affected the style of the baroque concerto for the next generation of composers. The reception of this collection, considered one of the crown jewels of baroque instrumental music, owes a portion of its success to the music publishing boom which began around 1690. Corelli’s signature violin sonata set, “Opus 5”, also widely published, appeared in at least forty-two editions by 1800.
Corelli’s concertos are written in an expanded trio sonata style, in which the two solo violins and cello form a small ensemble within the larger tutti framework, which is performed with all instruments together. The fourth concerto, played in the video linked above, is noteworthy for its suave and serene introduction, the gracefulness of the dance movement, the exceptionally well-balanced counterpoint and harmony, and the furious concluding coda which flows out of the second ending of the last movement.
Note: The video is from the Voices of Music Lamentations of Jeremiah concert held in April of 2014. Played with period instruments and practice,, there isn’t any conductor present at the performance. Kati Kyme and Elizabeth Blumenstock play solo baroque violins; Shirley Edith Hunt plays solo baroque cello; Gabrielle Wunsch and Maxine Nemerovski play ripieno baroque violins; Lisa Grodin plays baroque viola; Farley Pearce plays violone; Hanneke van Proosdij plays baroque organ; and David Tayler plays the archlute.