Michael McCooe – Composer: Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli (17th February 1653 – 8th January 1713) was an Italian violinist and composer. His music during the Baroque era was key to the development of modern classical music, including sonata and concerto while he also helped to establish the preeminence of the violin.

Early life

Corelli’s father passed away five weeks before the composer’s birth, so he was raised solely by his mother alongside four elder siblings. It is believed that Corelli initially studied music with a local priest in the nearby town of Faenza, and then in Lugo, before moving to Bologna in 1666.

Establishment and style


Corelli was active in Rome by 1675 where he rapidly made a name for himself, playing in a variety of ensembles. He was sponsored by wealthy patrons including Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili, for whom he played in Lenten oratorios at San Marcello from 1676 to 1679. He also played for Queen Christina of Sweden.

Many of his qualities as a composer were passed on to later generations, although it has been noted that Corelli used only a limited portion of his instruments’ capabilities which is evident from his writings. The parts for violin very rarely proceed above D on the highest string, sometimes reaching the E in fourth position.

Works and legacy of Corelli

Corelli’s compositions for the violin have had an impact on the history of chamber music and his influence was not confined to Italy. Many composers (including Johann Sebastian Bach) were known to have taken influence from Corelli.

Corelli passed away in 1713 with a personal fortune and a valuable collection of works of art and fine violins, having succeeded in Rome as the most successful composer in its musical society.

Much of his movement and career development is unclear as few records were kept in the 17th  Century, but his musical repertoire consists of 48 trio sonatas, 12 violin and continuo sonatas and 12 concerti grossi in total. The concerti grossi in particular have proven successful in the Western world. A portion of the Christmas Concerto, Op. 6 No. 8, is the official soundtrack of the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Corelli’s Op. 6 No. 2 also provided the theme for Sir Michael Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli.

You can listen to some of my favourite classical pieces on my Michael McCooe SoundCloud profile, which is updated regularly.