Skip to main content

Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713)

In his lifetime, Arcangelo Corelli was renowned as a very great musician and composer. Today, we regard him as an important figure who contributed much toward the development of music in the baroque era and beyond.

Born in Northern Italy, Corelli lived and worked in France and Germany as a young adult. He ultimately settled in Rome, where he enjoyed the support of aristocratic patrons. These included Queen Christina, who lived in Rome after abdicating the throne of Sweden, and important Church figures, such as Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, nephew of Pope Alexander VIII.

Corelli was a masterful violinist whose performances greatly promoted the instrument. Indeed, he has been called the “father” of violin technique. Corelli taught the instrument, and then his students taught a subsequent generation, and so on. Today, there are violinists who proudly trace their “lineage” through their teachers, and their teachers’ teachers, back to Corelli himself.

He was also an enormously innovative composer. His emphasis on melody and accompaniment helped to soften stricter aspects of counterpoint. Corelli thereby expanded possibilities within baroque music, and also contributed toward future developments in the classical era. Corelli is particularly associated with the concerto grosso (the “large” concerto), a genre in which musical material is passed between a group of soloists and the orchestra.

His fame was such that he was buried in Rome’s Pantheon, an honor shared with the painters Raphael and Carracci, and later with the kings of unified Italy.