Corelli's Violin Sonatas Op. 5, Nos. 1-6 Few publications have been as influential in the history of solo instrumental music as the Sonate a violino e violone o cimbalo (Sonatas for violin and violone or harpsichord) by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713). This collection of twelve sonatas (the first six of which are recorded here) ushered in a new century, with a dedication to the Electress of Brandenburg dated January 1, 1700. Rarely in music history does the beginning of an era coordinate so neatly with the calendar, but in this case, it's tempting to argue that the publication of Corelli's Op. 5 on the first day of the eighteenth century heralded a new epoch in the history of solo instrumental music. The Op. 5 sonatas were the penultimate issue of Corelli's six published collections, which comprise the vast bulk of his surviving works. His four earlier opere were all collections of trio sonatas, while the posthumous Op. 6 contained the famous concerti grossi. His output has distinguished him as a key figure in the grand narrative of music history: he is the earliest major composer whose celebrity rests on instrumental music alone. All of Corelli's publications enjoyed unprecedented fame throughout Europe for many generations after his death, with an immense number of reprints issued over the course of the eighteenth century. The Op. 5 sonatas were the most popular of the six collections, with close to fifty editions appearing before the turn of the nineteenth century. The collection remained extremely popular among professional and amateur violinists alike, well into the nineteenth century, and is today regarded as a cornerstone in the baroque repertoire for violin. As Corelli's only surviving violin sonatas, Op. 5 serves as the most tangible account of this famed virtuoso's particular genius on his own instrument. Corelli's legacy long outlived him, but it originated with the celebrated status he enjoyed during his lifetime. Superlative description and mythological allusion mark contemporary accounts of his playing. Composer Angelo Berardi styled him "the new Orpheus of our days," likening him to the mythical musician who softened the hardest hearts in the underworld through the unearthly beauty of his music. Others called Corelli "the greatest glory of our time" and "the best in Europe." Antimo Liberati, meanwhile, praised him not only for his technical mastery of the violin, but also for his artistic vision and unerring musical taste: He has demonstrated his miraculous talent in the choice and absorption of it's vivid and precious canons, with which he selected and made a style for the most part delightful and unrivalled, and full of every loveliness and beauty that can issue from the mind of man. In Rome, where Corelli spent nearly his entire career, he was held in high esteem by all, including his patrons, Queen Christina of Sweden, Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili, and Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. Corelli enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Ottoboni, who became his patron in 1690. With Ottoboni's support, the star musician enjoyed nearly ideal working conditions and more flexibility than he might otherwise have had to pursue his own artistic interests. Among these projects was the painstaking preparation of the Op. 5 sonatas for publication. Publishing works like these was not the most obvious course of action at the end of the seventeenth century. For one, the sense of permanence involved in putting music on paper flew in the face of the aesthetic of seventeenth-century violin playing, which valued the ephemeral and highly individual contributions of the performer. There were also serious practical limitations to representing the subtle, complicated, idiomatic gestures of virtuosic performers in print. The technology of movable type, used by mid-seventeenth-century violinists like Marco Uccellini, was woefully inadequate in conveying subtleties of expression and essential techniques such as double-stopping. Copperplate engraving, the technology used for Corelli's prints, was graphically more fluid and could accommodate a greater variety of notational symbols, but it's use for printing string writing of this type was still at an experimental stage when Op. 5 was printed. The arduous process of preparing music for engraving can be ascertained from the words of Corelli himself writing some years after the publication of Op. 5: "After many and long corrections I have scarcely had the courage to reveal to the public the few works which I have already sent to the press." Corelli reveals himself as a performer of a dynamic art struggling to represent it through the static medium of print. The implications of this "translation" from sound to page went far beyond superficial editing. It shaped Corelli's creative decisions on a fundamental level. For perhaps the first time, a violinist was conceiving of his music as something that would exist as a genuinely permanent, visual art. Print brought a visual aspect to all dimensions of the formal architecture of Corelli's music. It induced him to systematize his harmonic language, which was deeply rooted in the modal conventions of the seventeenth century, forming a codified vocabulary. So widely was Corelli's harmonic language disseminated that it quickly became part of the basis for the pan-European musical lingua franca of the next two centuries: tonality. Ironically, Corelli would later be criticized by British historian Charles Burney for the blandness of his harmonic language. The reality was that his harmonic language had, in fact, been highly original. But it was so successful and so widely adopted that by Burney's time it had become standard convention - the model for imitation. Undoubtedly, printing also contributed to the generic and stylistic innovations that characterize the Op. 5 sonatas. These works are really neither solo violin sonatas nor duo sonatas for violin and violone, but rather combine the best of both worlds. The solo violin sonata of seventeenth- century Italy had featured a virtuosic, rhapsodic violin part accompanied by a simple continuo line. This is the style that the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher had referred to as stylus phantasticus. While the stylus phantasticus lived up to it's name in the hands of an accomplished live performer, it became flat and disappointing when represented on the printed page: the irreproducible subtleties of such music did not translate well into print. The seventeenth-century treble-bass duo sonata, on the other hand, had featured a contrapuntal texture involving the bass instrument as well as violin. In Corelli's Op. 5 sonatas, and particularly in Nos. 1-6, we see the marriage of these two traditional genres. The influence of the trio sonata is also palpable, particularly in Corelli's contrapuntal use of double stops, an aural allusion to the imitation of the two violins in trio textures. In 1710, Amsterdam-based publisher Estienne Roger issued a new edition of the Op. 5 sonatas, with a significant addition. The title-page announced that the edition contains ornaments "composed by Corelli as he plays them." Indeed, in all of the slow movements in Nos. 1-6 there is a new staff added above the original violin part. On the added staff, Corelli wrote out a highly elaborated version of the original part. In his decision to share with the world his own ornaments, Corelli attempted to record one version of a nuanced live performance. Little did Corelli know that the publication of his own ornaments would initiate a long, rich tradition of original notated ornaments for the Op. 5 sonatas. Not only did learning to ornament Corelli's Op. 5 sonatas become an essential component of a violinist's training, some of Europe's leading violinists wrote down and published their own unique contributions to this tradition, including Francesco Geminiani, Matthew Dubourg, William McGibbon, Giuseppe Tartini, and Francesco Galeazzi. In all, over 20 surviving sources from the eighteenth century transmit original sets of ornaments for the sonatas. On the present recording, the artists have chosen to perform Corelli's own classic ornaments for the slow movements. On the opening Adagio of No. 5, however, we hear Corelli's ornaments the first time through, and Dubourg's highly virtuosic ornaments on the repeats. Dubourg, a student of Geminiani (who, in turn, had been a student of Corelli), worked closely with George Frideric Handel in Dublin. His original ornaments for some of the movements from Op. 5 are preserved in a manuscript that went missing in the 1970s. Fortunately, a copy of the manuscript was made before it's disappearance, and thus the artists on this recording have been able to bring some of Dubourg's ornaments to life once again, alongside Corelli's. In the end, it is the utter naturalness of Corelli's music that makes for such pleasurable playing and listening. Upon the persuasive beauty of this music rests the subsequent history of the violinist's art. Leon Chisholm Berkeley, March 2010.