Corelli: Concerti Grossi

Corelli: Concerti Grossi Opus 6
La Petite Bande - Sigiswald Kuijken
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77007 (2 CDs)
BMG Japan 38197/98 (2 CDs)

Playing time: 137'

Recording date: September 1976 (Nos. 1-4) & September 1977 (Nos. 5-12)

The present classic recording contains the complete twelve Concerti Grossi of Opus 6; the first six have been reissued as Deutsche Harmonia Mundi "baroque esprit" 77432 on a single CD.

Long considered one of the pinnacle geniuses of Western music, Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) was one of the most influential Baroque composers. His output is entirely instrumental, published in a mere six opus numbers (each containing twelve pieces). Along with Vivaldi, Corelli has maintained an easy eminence among Italian Baroque instrumental composers. His Concerti Grossi have continued to be immensely popular.

Besides the Concerti Grossi of Op. 6, Corelli's remaining published output consists entirely of trio sonatas. This was the most important chamber music genre of the time, consisting of two top lines (of basic equality) and a basso continuo (usually played by more than one instrument). Corelli is universally acknowledged as the composer who perfected this form.

A series of earlier Italian composers helped to develop the trio sonata for strings. Three of the most significant names, in three distinct generations leading up to Corelli are Giovanni Battista Fontana (d.c.1630), Biagio Marini (1597-1665) and Maurizio Cazzati (1620-1677). Quality recordings devoted to each:

Fontana / Cima / Turini - Sonatas
Ensemble Sonnerie
Virgin Veritas 45199 (2 CDs)
Marini: Curiose & Moderne Inventioni
Harmonia Mundi USA 907175
Cazzati: Sonates pour deux violons & continuo, opus XVIII
Ensemble Mensa Sonora - Jean Maillet
Pierre Vérany 797024

The above composers were central in the development of the sonata for violin as Corelli found it. Of the three, Marini was probably the most famous and widely influential. A general collection devoted to the pre-Corelli Italian violin:

L'Arte del violino in Italia tra XVII e XVIII secolo - Vol. I
Ensemble Aurora - Enrico Gatti
Symphonia 90S02

Corelli's trio sonatas of Op. 1 & Op. 3 are "da chiesa" (church) and consist almost exclusively of the standard four movements (slow-fast-slow-fast), emphasizing polyphonic ideas and usually with a fugue in the second movement. The trio sonatas of Op. 2 & Op. 4 are "da camera" (chamber), using dance movements and often a lighter harmonic idiom. This distinction is subsumed somewhat in Op. 4, where the styles have been combined. Among these, Corelli must be seen as preeminent in the church style, and so the Op. 3 sonatas are something of a summit. A fine recording devoted to these, including citations for other sonatas:

Corelli: Sonate da Chiesa
Opera Terza & Sonate Postume
Ensemble Aurora - Enrico Gatti
Arcana 902 (2 CDs)

The Violin Sonatas of Op. 5 continued to be influential into the early Romantic era, where they were re-scored for violin & piano. Corelli is considered a pioneer in this genre. These pieces are conceived as "trio sonatas" in that the single violin takes two lines simultaneous, via double stops and broken chords. In this set, the first six sonatas are "da chiesa" while the second six are "da camera". A recording with other citations:

Corelli: 12 Sonate a violino, Op.5
Trio Veracini
Novalis 150128 (2 CDs)

The Concerti Grossi of Op. 6 also represent a pioneering effort, continued in the hands of later Baroque composers. Vivaldi, of course, is most prominent among them and it was he who established the solo concerto. In Corelli's case, there is a "solo" concertino consisting of essentially a trio sonata ensemble which interacts with the larger supporting cast; there is no role for competition here. This publication consists of eight concerti in "da chiesa" style, following by four concerti in "da camera" style. A few other recordings:

Corelli: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6
Europa Galante - Fabio Biondi
Naïve Opus 111 20012 (2 CDs)
Corelli: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6/1-6
Ensemble Modo Antiquo - Frederico Maria Sardelli
Tactus 650307
Corelli: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6/7-12
Ensemble Modo Antiquo - Frederico Maria Sardelli
Tactus 650308
Corelli: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6
Ensemble 415 - Chiara Banchini / Jesper Christensen
Harmonia Mundi 901406/7 (2 CDs)
Corelli: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6/1-6
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra - Nicholas McGegan
Harmonia Mundi USA 907014
Corelli: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6/7-12
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra - Nicholas McGegan
Harmonia Mundi USA 907015
Corelli: Concerti Grossi
Tafelmusik - Jeanne Lamon
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 7908
Corelli: Concerti Grossi, Op. 6
English Concert - Trevor Pinnock
Deutsche Grammophon 474 907 (2 CDs)
Corelli: 12 concerti grossi op. 6
Fabrizio Cipriani / Alessandro Stradella Consort - Estevan Velardi
Dynamic 299/1-2 (2 CDs)
Corelli: Concertos
Das Collegium Musicum des Westdeutschen Rundfunk, Köln
Harmonia Mundi 25140 (LP)

Finally, a couple of sets of Corelli's complete output:

Corelli: Opera Omnia
Accademia Bizantina - Carlo Chiarappa
Europa Musica (Koch) 350.202 (9 CDs)
Corelli: Opera Omnia
Musica Amphion - Pieter-Jan Belder
Brilliant Classics 92403 (10 CDs)

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Todd M. McComb