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Arcangelo Corelli: Arcangelo Corelli, (born Feb. 17, 1653, Fusignano, near Imola, Papal States [Italy]—died Jan. 8, 1713, Rome), Italian violinist and composer known chiefly for his influence on the development of violin style and for his sonatas and his 12 Concerti Grossi, which established the concerto grosso as a popular medium of composition. Arcangelo Corelli's mother, Santa Raffini, having been left a widow five weeks before his birth, named him after his deceased father, Arcangelo. There are no documented details on his first years of study. It is thought that his first teacher was the curate of San Savino, a village on the outskirts of Fusignano. Later, he went to Faenza and Lugo, where he received his first elements of musical theory. Between 1666 and 1667 he studied with Giovanni Benvenuti, violinist of the chapel of San Petronio in Bologna. Benvenuti taught him the first principles of the violin, and another violinist, Leonardo Brugnoli, furthered his education. In 1670 Corelli was initiated into the Philharmonic Academy of Bologna.
After a four-year stay in Bologna, Arcangelo Corelli went to Rome. Reliable evidence on his activities is lacking for the first five years, but it is likely that he played the violin at the Tordinona Theatre. Also, it is possible that in 1677 he made a trip to Germany, returning to Rome in 1680. On June 3, 1677, he sent his first composition, Sonata for Violin and Lute, to Count Fabrizio Laderchi of Faenza.
By Feb. 3, 1675, he was already third violinist in the orchestra of the chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, and by the following year he was second violinist. In 1681 his 12 Trio Sonatas for Two Violins and Cello, with Organ Basso Continuo, Opus 1, dedicated to Queen Christina of Sweden, who had a residence in Rome, were published. The following year he took the post of first violinist in the San Luigi dei Francesi orchestra, a position he held until 1685, the year in which his 12 Chamber Trio Sonatas for Two Violins, Violone and Violoncello or Harpsichord, Opus 2, were published.
From September 1687 until November 1690, Arcangelo Corelli was musical director at the Palazzo Pamphili, where he both performed in and conducted important musical events. Arcangelo Corelli was particularly skilled as a conductor and may be considered one of the pioneers of modern orchestral direction. He was frequently called upon to organize and conduct special musical performances. Perhaps the most outstanding of these was the one sponsored by Queen Christina for the British ambassador, who had been sent to Rome by King James II of England to attend the coronation of Pope Innocent XII. For this entertainment, Arcangelo Corelli conducted an orchestra of 150 strings. In 1689 he directed the performance of the oratorio Santa Beatrice d’Este by Giovanni Lulier, called del violino, also with a large number of players (39 violins, 10 violas, 17 cellos, and additional instruments to make a total of more than 80 musicians). The same year, he entered the service of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, in which he spent the rest of his life.
In 1689 Arcangelo Corelli’s 12 Church Trio Sonatas for Two Violins and Archlute, with Organ Basso Continuo, Opus 3, dedicated to Francesco II, duke of Modena (he had been the Modenesi Count, 1689–90), was published; and in 1694 his 12 Chamber Trio Sonatas for Two Violins and Violone or Harpsichord, Opus 4, intended for the academy of Cardinal Ottoboni, also appeared.
It is probable that Arcangelo Corelli also taught at the German Institute in Rome and certain that in 1700 he occupied the post of first violinist and conductor for the concerts of the Palazzo della Cancelleria. Also in 1700 his 12 Sonatas for Violin and Violone or Harpsichord, Opus 5, dedicated to Sophia Charlotte of Brandenburg, was published.
In 1702 Arcangelo Corelli went to Naples, where he probably played in the presence of the king and performed a composition by the Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti. There is no exact documentation for this event; however, it is known that he met George Frideric Handel, who was in Rome between 1707 and 1708. In 1706, together with the Italian composer Bernardo Pasquini and Scarlatti, he was received into the Arcadia Academy and conducted a concert for the occasion.
Arcangelo Corelli did not live to see the publication of his Opus 6, consisting of 12 concerti grossi, which was published in Amsterdam the year following his death.
Arcangelo Corelli was born at Fusignano, a small but ancient town about halfway between Bologna and Ravenna, on the rich plain of the Romagna. His family was one of the best known in the region, among them being lawyers and doctors rich enough to endow a number of churches and to play a notable part in local politics. They seem to have had no tradition of music, and it is a puzzle why Arcangelo should have taken up the art; yet it is clear that his talent revealed itself at an early age. Although his father died before he was born, the family circumstances were comfortable enough, and they sent Arcangelo to study with a priest at the nearby town of Faenza, and then at another, Lugo. From there he went, at the age of about thirteen to Bologna, at that time a musical centre of some consequence, with a great many good instrumentalists who had banded themselves into an Accademia Filarmonica, which was virtually an excellent orchestra. Arcangelo Corelli was admitted to this body in 1670, and later in life he liked to acknowledge himself as a real Bolognese on the title pages of his publications.
It is not known what happened in the next few years but by 1675 he was in Rome, where his fame was to be assured. He may have begun his life there as a theatre violinist; certainly he played in the ensemble of the church of S Luigi dei Francesi on the days of its patron saint, when the gentry were strongly in evidence at High Mass and first Vespers. Starting as a back desk player, he gradually worked himself up to lead the orchestra, and by 1679 he was also directing the orchestra at the Teatro Capranica, apparently earning substantial fees. The seal was set on his reputation by the publication of his Opus 1, a set of trio sonatas, in 1681, dedicating it to one of the most important of Roman patrons, Queen Christina of Sweden, who was also a keen attender at the celebrations of the saint's day at S Luigi dei Francesi; and Arcangelo Corelli directed the music for a grand festival organised by her when James II of England sent an emissary to negotiate the (abortive) return of Britain to the Catholic faith in 1687. In that year, he became music master to Cardinal Panfili, in whose palazzo he lived, along with his favourite pupil and a man servant.
By this time he was receiving offers from elsewhere, notably Modena, not very far from his native country and he may even have visited the court there for a short time. Nevertheless, the accession of Alexander VIII to the papacy in 1689, meant that Alexander's nephew, Pietro Ottoboni, became a rich cardinal and could indulge his obsession with music on a more than ample scale. He immediately engaged Arcangelo Corelli to direct the music of his household, which included a series of Monday concerts famous throughout Italy. Pupils indeed came from as far away as England, since Lord Edgecumbe studied with him and commissioned a portrait; while the nephew of Samuel Pepys, heard him delightedly at a Christmas Eve Mass in 1699. He was honoured by being admitted to the exclusive Accademia dei Arcadi, which included Alessandro Scarlatti and Bernardo Pasquini among its members.
By this period his fame as a composer was at its height. He had published four books of trio sonatas in the years up to 1694 and in 1700 a set of sonatas for solo violin and continuo appeared. Their influence was enormous, and indeed this corpus formed the basic repertoire of the violinists of the next generation, notably Locatelli, Geminiani, Dubourg (Handel's leader for operas and oratorios) and Castrucci. Nevertheless, it seems that in his later years, the younger virtuosi outpassed him in both technique and stylistic knowledge. About 1701 he visited Naples, to be astonished that the players of the royal orchestra could read his concertos at sight almost as well as his own orchestra in Rome could play them after rehearsing, and on the same visit, a passage in a masque by A. Scarlatti which went up to a high F proved too difficult for him - but not for the local leader! There is also the famous story told by Handel's biographer, John Mainwaring, which tells that Arcangelo Corelli, leading the orchestra in the overture to the German's oratorio The Triumph of Time, annoyed him so much that Handel snatched the violin from Arcangelo Corelli's hands to show him how it went: to which Arcangelo Corelli replied, 'But, my dear Saxon, this music is in the French style, which I do not understand.' The French style involved double dotting and notes inegales, and was now common throughout Europe (Bach frequently used it), so this suggests a by now insular attitude on Arcangelo Corelli's part.
Nevertheless, when an ill-founded rumour circulated in 1708 that Arcangelo Corelli had died, Arcangelo Corelli was mourned by no less a person than one of the Electors of the Holy Roman Emperors. He gave up playing in public about 1710, and two years later became seriously ill. In January 1713, he made his last will, and died on the night of the 8th of that month. He was widely mourned, his patron Cardinal Ottoboni ordering that he should be placed in a triple bier of lead, cypress and chestnut wood and laid in a tomb of marble in the church of the Rotunda in Rome (today known by its former title, the Pantheon). He died a relatively rich man, with a capital of about £6,000 (a substantial sum in the 1 8th century - according to the estimates of Burney - and a collection of over one hundred paintings, including a Breughel and some landscapes by Poussin. One of his violins may have been a Stradivarius, and he also owned an 'old violoncello', a two-manual harpsichord and a violone. He also left the Concertos of Op.6 to be published by a pupil, Fornari, and these, his most famous works, were issued in 1714. His compositions were among the most popular of the 18th century and continued in the repertoire, especially in England, for over seventy years.
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