Arcangelo Corelli was born on February 17th,
1653, the fifth child of a prosperous family of landowners. Little is known
about his early life but it is likely his initial musical education was with
the local clergy. By 1675, and possibly as early as 1671, Corelli had traveled
to Rome where he studied composition with Matteo Simonelli, a representative of
the polyphonic style handed down from Palestrina. During this time he also travelled
to Paris and possibly also to Spain. His first success came in the French
capital at the age of nineteen and firmly established his reputation. After
Paris, he traveled to Germany, possibly around 1680, where he became acquainted
with the German courts, dedicating his opus 5 to the Electress Sophie Charlotte
of Brandenburg and his opus 6 to Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm.
From 1681 onward, he remained in Rome with the exception of
only a few trips. He enjoyed the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden,
Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili and Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, and was well-received
among the upper echelons of Roman aristocracy. He was active as a performer and
frequently led both small and large ensembles in public and private concerts.
His reputation as a violinist and teacher equaled, if not surpassed, his
reputation as a composer. His music for violin, decidedly un-virtuosic, was
largely circulated and was favored as suitable pieces for students and held up
as models of composition. During a trip to Naples in 1702 at the invitation of
king, he was surprised by the skill of Neapolitan violinists. In another
incident involving Georg Frederic Handel, it is popularly said that Corelli
refused to play a high altissimo A in the overture to Handel's oratorio The Triumph of Time and Truth, which
premiered in Rome in 1708. When the composer, thirty-two years younger than
Corelli, played the note, Corelli was both offended and embarrassed.
Nevertheless, despite his undemanding violin playing, his style of execution
greatly influenced the development of violin technique throughout the 18th century. Compositionally, his music was also influential upon the development
of the Italian Baroque. His concertos were written during the period when the
implications of tonality were becoming solidified and his style formed the
foundation for later Italian composers. Outside the Italian peninsula,
Johann Sebastian Bach studied Corelli's compositions and even based one of his
organ fugues on Corelli's opus 3 composed in 1689.
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