Music of the Archangels

Archangelo Corelli, from a portrait by Hugh Howard (1697)

For our musical offering this week, we thought we’d go on this day dedicated to the Archangels to a composer named after them, Archangelo Corelli (1653 – 1715, who took his first name from his father, who died five weeks before his son’s birth). He was an early baroque composer, whose primary instrument was the violin, whose use he extended with his many beautiful and transcendent pieces for the instrument, and its family, even though he never wrote nor played for finger positions beyond the D on the highest string – he refused to play a high A in a performance of one of Handel’s pieces, and was actually offended when the composer himself did so. Roll over, Beethoven – but that would two centuries hence, to say nothing of Tchaikovsky.

But Corelli’s music did indeed extend the complexity of music, and the great Bach himself learned much from him (who took the violin even further – we will something to say of Chaconne soon enough).

For now, enjoy a bit of Archangelo Corelli – beauty does not need overly complex pieces. I recall something about Saint Francis de Sales hearing one note on a celestial violin played by an angel, as the most exquisite sound he had ever heard. And there’s more than one note here:

And his Christmas concerti, this part of which (Op. 6, No. 8) is used as the theme for the film Master and Commander: (Is it too early to prepare for Christmas?)