In 1726, Francesco Geminiani published his own arrangements of twelve violin sonatas by his teacher Arcangelo Corelli. Geminiani, who had studied violin with Corelli in Rome and later moved to London to establish a career there, transformed his teacher’s opus 5 sonatas into larger-scale pieces in the concerto grosso tradition. Why did the young virtuoso do this? Perhaps he was finding his voice as a composer and took a step in that process by arranging already existing (and well-loved) works. Or maybe he wanted to take advantage of the craze for Corelli’s music in London to generate some income. As a simpler (and sweeter) explanation, maybe he simply wanted to pay musical tribute to his celebrated teacher and all that he learned from him.
The more I listen to these wonderful concertos, the more I’m convinced it’s the latter reason! And the more I’m moved by the spirit and skill with which Geminiani took these sonatas, exquisite gems in their original form, and transformed them into something new — larger in scope and richer in sonority (employing techniques that Corelli himself practically invented).
Geminiani and his contemporary Handel, both expatriates living in London, helped feed the demand for music in Corelli’s style there, together writing over 40 pieces in the genre Handel’s publisher called “Grand Concertos.” The circle of Corelli’s influence expanded to a third generation with Geminiani’s student Charles Avison, and with the blind organist Charles Stanley, a follower of Handel. These musicians helped to keep the Corelli tradition going in London through at least the 1780’s.
But the circle of Corelli’s influence really extended to many of the major European musical centers, as well as through time in the musical language he developed that we still “speak” today.
With all this in mind, I hope you will join us on January 6th or 7th for Arcangelo’s Circle, a celebration of the spirit and legacy of Corelli. Here is the program we are excited to share with you:
Francesco Geminiani, Concerto Grosso in D major
(after Corelli’s violin sonata op. 5 no. 1)
John Stanley, Concerto in 7 Parts in B Minor, op. 2 no. 2
Charles Avison, Concerto in 7 Parts in D major, op. 6 no. 9
Arcangelo Corelli, Sonata for violin and continuo, op. 5 no. 10
(featuring Cynthia Miller Freivogel, violin, and Katherine Heater, harpsichord)
George Frideric Handel, Grand Concerto in A Minor, op. 6, no. 4 (HWV 322)
Arcangelo Corelli, Concerto Grosso in D major, op. 6 no. 4