The sonatas and concertos of Arcangelo Corelli have long been central to our understanding of seventeen-century music. However, no attempt has thus far been made to explain Corelli’s poetics of violin music and relate it, on the one hand, to the institutional settings in which he worked, and on the other, to the aesthetic aims nurtured within his cultural milieu.
Sex, fraud, murder. This is what composer Alessandro Stradella would have been remembered for, were it not for his extraordinary work in a variety of vocal and instrumental genres. Ask the experts and they will tell you: if individuality is at stake, whether in musical or in real life, not many seventeenth-century composers can stand next to Stradella.
‘… only the violin, the singing instrument, deceiving through a sound which is so similar to that of the living human voice, but singing without words, only the violin could teach the musician’s imagination those wider or more rapid inflections which the voice can barely follow but which the spirit can feel’ – Fausto Torrefranca, Le origini italiane del romanticismo musicale (Turin, 1930).
A song, a dance and a prayer from a remote time. May that be enough to bridge the gaps between seemingly distinct musical cultures – past and present, elite and popular, main stream and peripheral? Perhaps not, but that is how I started many years ago with the sun in my eyes, the wind in my ears and the sea all around me.