Corelli is Rocking the Palaces of Rome

Corelli's music gives us a taste of the good life in Rome at the end of the 17th century. © Charles Thibo
Corelli’s music gives us a taste of the good life in Rome at the end of the 17th century. © Charles Thibo

It was love at first sight, or rather love at the first sounds. Arcangelo Corelli, an Italian Baroque composer, wrote 12 concerti grossi Op. 6, works for chamber music ensembles, and the way they are played by Amandine Beyer’s formation “Gli Incogniti” is just stupendous. I can’t sit still, when I am enjoying these pieces, some parts of me always have to move: arms, shoulders legs. This rocks, really! And it’s over 300 years old.

Corelli, born in 1653, composed the 12 pieces around 1680, but they were published only in 1718 in Amsterdam. Samples are available at Arkivmusic, so put on your earphones  while you read this and listen to some of the tracks! At that time, he had already reached the end of a long career as a violinist and a composer for rich families and ecclesiastical dignitaries in Rome like Queen Christina of Sweden, Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili and Pietro Ottoboni, a distant nephew of Pope Alexander VIII. These people had good taste when they commissioned works from Corelli and I guess they had an excellent time in their Roman palaces.

In 1708 Corelli met the German composer Georg Friedrich Händel for common journey through Italy. In 1709 Corelli retired from public life. He significantly influenced the development of chamber music during his lifetime and thereafter, as later composers like Vivaldi and Telemann took Corelli’s style as one of their landmarks.

The first eight concerti grossi are written according to the tradition of the 18th century sonata di chiesa (sonata performed as part of a church service) with two slow and two fast movements alternating. The last four come closer to the chamber sonata with a prelude, and two fast movements similar to dances. No. 8 in G Minor has become widely know as Corelli’s Christmas Concert since it says in the title “fatto per la notte di Natale”. The success of Corelli’s Op. 6 sparked an acute interest in this music from all over Europe, and it is a pity that his works aren’t performed more often. They would certainly deserve it!

© Charles Thibo

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