We have Arcangelo Corelli to thank for the concerto grosso (small and large group of instrumentalists playing off each other); the trio sonata (three music parts confusingly played by four instrumentalists) and the solo sonata (solo work). He didn’t bother with the voice – unusual for the time. While Corelli’s output was small, his impact was huge. He set the template in terms of compositional structure that composers would use for many years after him. He also was a known violinist, and played with great musicality, though his technique wasn’t that great, and many of his colleagues could play circles around him.
Few musicians had the setup Corelli had, such as patrons in Queen Christina, Cardinal Pamphili, and Cardinal Ottoboni. Corelli served and lived in these peoples’ mansions from 1689 until right before his death in 1713. He died a rich man, leaving a collection of instruments, manuscripts, and a fine collection of paintings. He willed them to one of his benefactors, who kindly turned them over to Corelli’s relatives. He was buried in the Pantheon of Rome. Corelli’s influence was so great that JS Bach and Handel studied his works and were influenced by them.
Have a listen to the Trio Sonata in D Major, Op. 3, No. 2 performed by the Texas Christian University Collegium.
Arcangelo Corelli was born February 17, 1653 in Fusignano, Italy, and died January 8, 1713 in Rome.