48. Arcangelo Corelli [365 Composers for 2013]


17th February – Arcangelo Corelli


Corelli (17th February 1653 – 8th January 1713) is our composer for 17th February, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: Italian
Lifespan: 69 years
Genre: Baroque
Education: Bologna
Fame Ranking: 2

As a violinist, teacher and composer, Corelli was a hugely influential character during the Baroque era. Corelli was the first famous violinist – he took what was then a newly invented instrument and set about not only becoming a virtuoso on it but also systematically  worked out the best techniques to use on it. He had many students, including Vivaldi, and he helped to spread the popularity of the violin throughout Europe with his perfomances and compositions. Without Corelli, the violin may never have reached its current status as the instrument which leads a symphony orchestra.

Corelli did not write a huge number of compositions – there are only 6 opus numbers for his works. However, his pieces enjoyed a wide popularity which continues to this day. He is credited as the master of the “Concerto Grosso” (he didn’t invent this form, but he certainly perfected and popularised it). A concerto grosso is a large piece, which has two sets of performers – one large group and one small group. Corelli used two violins and a cello as his small ensemble, pitched against the rest of the string orchestra as the large group. A characteristic of the concerto grosso is that it uses “terraced” dynamics – a loud section is followed by a quiet section, for example, without any use of gradual increases or decreases in volume (i.e. no crescendos or diminuendos).

Corelli had a very successful career, both at home in Italy and when touring across Europe. He made a lot of money, but did not spent it lavishly. Apart from a collection of rare and beautiful instruments which he procured, the rest of his fortune was left in hard cash to a friend of his, who then generously returned the fortune to Corelli’s family.

Here is a late concerto grossi by Corelli – from his final opus and dating to 1714:



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