Arcangelo Corelli: the Period, Life, and Works

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Brianna Hunter
MUL1110-3060
Professor Kranz
February 20, 2013

Arcangelo Corelli: The Period, Life, and Works

Music was discovered thousands of years ago and has only progressively gotten better with the invention of instruments and the development of musical dynamics. During the baroque period, in which Arcangelo Corelli lived and died, music was beginning to evolve into a more diverse musical experience. Arcangelo Corelli was one of the few violin and musical composer pioneers that helped shape music and create some of the most recognized compositions of his era. According to Baroque Music, Corelli not only shared his musical knowledge with fellow musicians, but was known as the “founder of modern violin technique,” the “world’s first great violinist,” and the “father of concerto grosso.” The period, life, and works in which the great Arcangelo Corelli lived will be discussed in greater detail as the paper progresses.

To begin, the baroque period, also known as the “age of absolutism,” is classified by the years 1600, in which opera began, to the death of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1750 (Kamien 99). Opera was birthed in Italy within the baroque period and provided the people a show of “magnificent extravagance” with more emphasis on the words than the music (Kamien 118-19). Furthermore, the baroque styled opera marked the entrance of castrato singers. These singers were males who had been castrated before they hit puberty to ensure the lung power of men and the vocal range of women. “By combining virtuosity, nobility, and extravagance, baroque opera perfectly expressed the spirit of a grand age” (Kamien 120).

As well as the start of opera, the texture of the music was imperative during the baroque period. In the early baroque period, from 1600 to 1640, musicians favored the homophonic texture of music. Early baroque composers thought the only way to clearly project the lyrics of the songs was to have a main, constant melody with stressed contrasting sounds by singers against a chorus or using voices against instruments. On the contrast, during the late baroque period, 1690-1750, the favored texture was polyphonic, just as it had been during the renaissance period (Kamien 102). According to NAU, “polyphonic texture contains two or more active melodies… with emphasis placed upon the interplay between lines, rather than on a single melody or a stream of chord sounds” (par 1). In addition, the layering of voices shares importance with the polyphonic texture of the baroque period. “Layering is when two or more voices move at different but closely related levels of rhythmic activity, similar to different parts of a machine moving at different but related speeds” (“Polyphonic” par 2). Although homophonic texture paved a way for music of the baroque period, most of the baroque compositions that are well-known used the polyphonic texture which helped “instrumental music become as important as vocal music for the first time” (Kamien 102)

In addition, the form of the music in the baroque period was also important. The musical forms varied from sonatas to concerto grosso to the most basic forms. For instance, the two basic musical forms are ternary form, which is a three-part A B A sequence, and binary form, which is a two-part A B sequence. The most commonly used basic form of the baroque period was the ternary form, which had sounds that mirrored “a statement, a contrast or departure, and a return,” hinting an A B A sequence (Kamien 49-50). Next, the concerto grosso was very essential for late baroque. The concerto grosso, “a small group of soloists pitted against a larger group of players called the tutti (all),” was used by orchestras in upper-class palaces that provided the soloists with “brilliant and fanciful melodic lines” (Kamien 108). Finally, the sonatas were popular...
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