I recently reviewed a really well-done recording by Musica Antiqua Roma that starts with a Corelli sonata, then goes to a number of other Italiante composers, exploring what this seed, published circa 1700 did… as an influence on musical language and style.
Arcangelo Corelli was active in the late 1600s, and despite only publishing 6 collections of works, remains a very important figure in the history of western art music, particularly as a signpost figure in the Baroque.
* Opp. 1-4, trio sonatas
* Op. 5, solo violin sonatas
* Op. 6, concerti grossi
The collection pictured in this post, from Ensemble Aurora, includes some works not part of the six opuses, some so-called *sonate postume*. Either way, when we consider Corelli, we have six collections of rather conservative works.
It's not hard to see the popularity in the styles Corelli chose, despite their conservative nature. Composers of the later half of the baroque took up the trio form in a variety of ways, composers such as Avison in England took up the concerto gross style in arrangements of Scarlatti, and Geminiani, despite being Italian, took Corelli's own works in England and adopted his most widely-apperciated collection (the opus V violin sonatas) and adapted them into concerti gross too.
Corelli's style has what I consider a "Neapolitan" sound, his harmonic progressions follow recognizable formulas, and the music over all, no matter the opus, has a simple harmonic "sweetness" to it, which I supposed earlier on, led me to consider Corelli's work akin to sucking on a delicious caramel candy.
Some important recordings I recommend that include work by Corelli include:
* Corelli, Concerti Grossi by Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi
* Corelli, Sonate da chiesa, op. 3 by Ensemble Aurora/Enrico Gatti
* Corelli, Violin Sonatas op. 5 by Stefano Montanari/Ottavio Dantone
* Corelli: Violin Sonatas op. 5 by Andrew Manze/Richard Egarr
* Corelli's Legacy, chamber works by Musica Antiqua Roma/Riccardo Minasi
* Le Concert Spirituel, works by Le Concert des Nations/Savall
* Corelli: Sonatas, opp. 3,4 by the Purcell Quartet
There is some debate about my remark about conservatism with regards to Corelli's work. Not only famous as a composer, A. Corelli was also known as a solid violinist. Like many an Italian, his playing style was described in some fantastic terms. Yet, how did it sound? How closely did he play the scores? Some would have us believe his scores were indicative of an Italian style that only use the score as a mere blueprint for quite inventive playing. Certainly the concerti recording between Trevor Pinnock with the English Concert and Fabio Biondi's with EG some 10 years later is clearly audible in terms of style. And yet, we can hear an even more recent recording by Riccardo Manasi or the one with Enrico Onofri with Concert des Nations, with either the solo violin, or concerto grosso, and the extrovert and inventive playing by the violins. We can hardly blame anyone for adding florid decoration to those solid structures of sweet harmony. The *real* baroque exposes itself, ever a real mystery, but when done right, an exquisite expression of human passion.
I hope more of our inventive performers, real authentic players, continue to champion Corelli on record. While his music on paper escapes the connotation of "baroque" as a black pearl, his bedrock turns out to be an ideal platform for festive expression. And that's why he's a solid composer to turn to in my collection time after time… it's only too bad we don't have more!