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To the 18th century, Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) represented the “old” (and to its proponents, virtuous) Italian style, as opposed to the modernist (and to its detractors, decadent) style of Vivaldi. Corelli’s Op. 6 Concertos were published posthumously in 1714, but had been circulating over a long period before then, and by the time of publication had already been an important influence on a younger generation of violinists and composers.
Corelli’s concerto style was notable for being entirely instrumental, owing nothing to vocal style. We take it for granted today that instrumental music need not sound like song, but that notion was still new in the 17th century. The first Allegro of the D-major Concerto consists entirely of violin figurations, with no hint of recognizable “melody,” as if Corelli were writing a violin etude. But it is, for all that, beautiful and moving as well as brilliant. For all their influence in establishing what a concerto grosso ought to be, the 12 Concertos of his Op. 6 vary greatly in their form and sequences of movements. No. 4, with its slow second movement amid three fast movements, bears a structural resemblance to the later symphony.
- Howard Posner