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Harmonia Early Music

The Corellisti

This week we explore music created in honor of Arcangelo Corelli. We’ll also review a new release of Handel’s opera Semele.

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painting of man with violin

Photo: Anonymous

A painting by Jan Frans Douven of Arcangelo Corelli.

It would be an understatment to say that Arcangelo Corelli was well known in the 18th Century.  His music, in particular his op. 5 violin sonatas, were some of the most disseminated compositions of the century.  Not only were they widely played, they were also widely criticised.

Francesco Maria Veracini, an admirer of Corelli, felt the need to revise and publish his own version, making ‘corrections,’ dropping movements and re-writing others.  Published as the Dissertationi on the op. 5 of Corelli, Veracini put a distinct mark on the original.

LIke Veracini, Francesco Geminiani also published music that was based on Corelli’s op. 5 violin sonatas.  Instead of revising them, he added parts, thus making them playable for an entire orchestra.  His Concerti Grossi can be seen as one of the highest forms of praise for Corelli.

The Italians were not the only ones who saw Corelli as the epitome of composers.  The French also thought he was ‘très magnifique.’  François Couperin placed him on the same level as the beloved Jean-Baptiste Lully.  In Couperin’s instrumental “Apotheosis of Corelli,” he tells the story of how Corelli ascends Mount Parnassus and ultimately becomes a god.

Georg Philipp Telemann, like many of his German contemporaries, also greatly admired Corelli and his music.  This is most obvious in his trio sonatas entitled Corellisante, which incorporated Corelli-like characteristics alongside French ones.

Our release of the week features the first complete period instrument recording of George Frederic Handel’s opera Semele.  Christian Curnyn directs the Early Opera Company in this release from the Chandos label.

Here’s a video of Ensemble Rebel performing a Corelli work from the Dorian release Corellisante:


The music heard in the episode was performed by Federico Guglielmo, Andrea Coen, The Academy of Ancient Music, William Christie, Christophe Rousset, and Ensemble Rebel.

George Frideric Handel: Semele, Endless pleasure, endless love
Early Opera Company (Christian Curnyn, dir.) — Semele (CHAN, 2007)
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Francesco Maria Veracini: Dissertatione IV
Federico Guglielmo, violin, and Andrea Coen, harpsichord — Dissertationi sopra l’opera Quinta del Corelli (Libro Primo) (STR, 2001)
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Francesco Geminiani: Concerto IV in F major
Academy of Ancient Music (Andrew Manze, dir.) — Concerti Grossi (after Corelli, op. 5) (HMU, 1999)
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François Couperin: Le Parnasse ou L’Apothéose de Corelli (Grande Sonade en Trio)
William Christie and Christophe Rousset, harpsichords — L’Apothéose de Lulli (HMC, 1988)
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G.P. Telemann: Sonate Corellisante II in A major TWV 42, A 5
Ensemble Rebel (Jörg-Michael Schwarz, dir.) — Corellisante: Sonatas for Two Violins & Basso Continuo by Corelli and Telemann (DSL, 2007)
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George Frideric Handel: Iris There, from mortal cares retiring
Early Opera Company (Christian Curnyn, dir.) — Semele (CHAN, 2007)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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