Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)

The Book

Corelli and the Poetics of Violin Music is a comprehensive historical and analytical study both of Corelli’s compositional strategies and of the society and culture which shaped his musical activities and thought. It aims principally to do two things: to explain Corelli’s poetics of the sonata – that is, the musical means the composer employed to craft instrumental pieces – and to clarify Corelli’s aesthetics of the sonata – that is, the musical motivations that prompted him to compose instrumental works. Since the artefacts called sonatas embody a specific mentality (if only pertaining to a minority of the population), the study of Corelli’s sonatas may be considered a study in the history of mentalities too.

In pursuit of these two related goals, the study reconsiders several well-known if underrated treatises of music theory originating from places and authors with which Corelli was associated. This literature provides strikingly valuable tools for the interpretation of the works of Corelli and other late seventeenth-century composers. The result of such a methodology is something that may be called, for want of a better term, ‘historically informed analysis’, whereby present modes of musical thought are abandoned in favour of concepts and categories which would have sounded familiar to the participating historical agents or, at any rate, to some prominent groups among them. Moreover, the peculiar combination of historical and aesthetic insights in this body of knowledge shared by musicians and patrons active in Rome and other urban centres of the Papal State during Corelli’s lifetime affords a unique opportunity to try to grasp the attitudes, values and assumptions embodied in contemporary musical compositions – in short, the collective mentality behind individual practices.

Alberto Sanna © 2015


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