Arcangelo Corelli: Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in C Major, Op. 5, No. 3

Borrn in Fusignano, Italy, Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) came from a prestige landowning family, accompanying his brothers and sisters to study music at a local school. Corelli holds a significant place in the history of the violin: apart from being a brilliant performer, he is also regarded as the founder of modern violin techniques and an outstanding instructor. He systemized bowing, and it was on the basis of his teaching that his protégé Francesco Geminiani (1687–1762) wrote, The Art of Playing the Violin (1751), the earliest treatise on violin techniques.

In the history of Western classical music, Corelli was the first outstanding composer to have written only instrumental music, leaving behind no vocal works. While only a handful of his works have survived to today, his compositions are classics, becoming models studied by composers of later generations. His Violin Sonata Op. 5 (1700) included 12 sonatas for solo violin and basso continuo, with the first six pieces written as sonata da chiesa, indicated by their tempo markings, followed by the other five sonatas written as sonata da camera based on the framework of dance movement composition, and the last piece is a set of variation. Op.3 belongs to the style of sonata da chiesa composed in series of five movements as slow-quick-slow-quick-quick. In each movement, Corelli requests that the performer unveils the various skills of violin playing, with the slow movements testing the ability to create performance improvisation composed by simple notes, leaving more space for players to exert themselves. The fast-paced tempo of the allegro challenges the player in doubling and tripling notes to create multi-voice music. It is worth mentioning that at the end of second movement, Corelli wrote in a cadenza, which some music history sources remark this feature, to end in a cadenza in concertos, was to be more apt in Classical and Romantic music thereafter.

The violin used in this recording was crafted by Nicolò Amati in 1656, whch is the most vernerated piece in the history of Amati family for its shape has established the standard of modern violin making. Playing the work composed by the very first master of instrumental music, the recording presents a perfect interpretation of violin music in the middle and late Baroque period.

Text and recordings are provided by Music Digital Archives Center, National Taiwan Normal University (Digital Violin Archive Project of Chi Mei Museum)