FoM Recordings

Arcangelo Corelli: Trio Sonatas, Op. 3

The Smithsonian Chamber Players (Jaap Schroeder & Marilyn McDonald, violins; Kenneth Slowik, violone; Konrad Junghänel, theorbo; James Weaver, organo di legno)

FoM 36-805

Virtuosissimo del violino, e vero Orfeo de nostri tempi

     With these words (“Great virtuoso of the violin, and our contemporary Orpheus”), Francesco Gasparini, writing in his 1708 figured bass tutor, succinctly described Arcangelo Corelli, one of the most revered and influential composers of the entire baroque era. Publishing his works at the time of a remarkable boom in the music printing industry, Corelli became the first composer to derive his fame from exclusively instrumental compositions, which gained widespread recognition primarily through printed editions rather than manuscript copies. His published oeuvre, comprising four collections of trio sonatas, a set of sonatas for solo violin and continuo, and a group of concerti grossi, were among the first works to achieve “classic” stature, being played in concerts long after contemporary compositions had fallen into oblivion. 


     The extent to which Thomas Jefferson sought to integrate music into his life at Monticello is clear in a letter of 1778 he wrote to Giovanni Fabbroni, a friend of the Italian Philip Mazzei, who, during his first sojourn in Virginia (1773–79) established with Jefferson what would become the first commercial vineyard in the Commonwealth of Virginia. After a rather lengthy discussion of the course of the Revolutionary War, Jefferson turned to what he called “the favorite passion of my soul:”

If there is a gratification which I envy any people in this world it is to your country its music. This is the favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism. . . . The bounds of an American fortune will not admit the indulgence of a domestic band of musicians. Yet I have thought that a passion for music might be reconciled with that economy which we are obliged to observe. 

     Later, in 1805, President Jefferson launched a successful campaign to bolster the abilities of the Marine Band (which had been established in 1798, and exists to this day as the oldest continuing professional music organization in the United States) by instructing one Captain John Hall, who was serving in the Mediterranean during the Barbary Coast War (an action memorialized in a line of the Marines’ Hymn—“to the shores of Tripoli”), to enlist some Italian musicians for service in America. A group of over a dozen Sicilian players, led by Gaetano Carusi, took up their posts in September of that year in what Carusi described as  “a desert; in fact a place containing some two or three taverns, with a few scattered cottages or log huts, called the City of Washington, the metropolis of the United States of America.”

     Jefferson’s sale of his own carefully compiled library to the United States Congress in 1815 certainly had a salubrious effect on the cultural foundations of that young metropolis. The composers represented in addition to Corelli include other English favorites such as Carl Friedrich Abel (1723–87), Johann Christian [“the London”] Bach (1735–82), Georg Friderick Handel (1685–1759), Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), the much-traveled Francesco Geminiani (1687–1762), Felice de Giardini (1716–96), Gaetano Pugnani (1731–98), who also worked in Paris, Giovanni Battista Lampugnani (1708–88), Quirino Gasparini (1721–78), Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710–36), and Samuel Arnold (1740–1802). 

—from Kenneth Slowik's liner essay



Listen to the Sonata in G Major, Op. 3, No. 6

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On this album: 

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)

[1] - [12] The Twelve Trio Sonatas of Opus 3 (1689)