Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerti Grossi Op. 6: new bliss, ancient roots

I Concerti Grossi Op. 6 di Arcangelo Corelli nella versione di Ottavio Dantone e Accademia Bizantina

With great excitement, we introduce a new work: the Concerti Grossi Op. 6 by Arcangelo Corelli. To us, this is a particularly compelling and significant work; it expands our tribute to the fathers of this musical form by joining the Concerti Grossi Op. 3 and Op. 6 by Georg Friedrich Händel, that were published about a year ago within the project The Exciting Sound of Baroque Music.

To record a work as important as Corelli’s Concerti Grossi is, for any orchestra, a very important moment: he is indeed one of the “mythical figures” of music of all times; the one who, with his genius and his work, marked the aesthetic apex and state of the art for the instrumental music of his time, and also created a musical form that influenced the rise and development of the modern concert in the following centuries.

Howerver, for us – being known as Accademia Bizantina – tackling the work of Arcangelo Corelli means something more: something akin to retracing our history from its roots. On the one hand, as an orchestra born and bred in Romagna, amidst the towns and hills of central Italy, a landscape fragrant with good food and the salty breeze of the Adriatic sea, we cannot but feel a special connection with the maestro from Fusignano, a town a few kilometres away from us. 

On the other hand, Corelli as an author has always been with us. As our Conductor Ottavio Dantone aptly recalls, “For Accademia Bizantina, Corelli’s Concerti Grossi are something ancestral, deeply rooted in our history and evolution. This recording is the result of many years of study and research into the Baroque language and is in some way a testimony of our artistic and aesthetic journey”.

Alessandro Tampieri, concertmaster di Accademia Bizantina

We have performed his music hundreds of times and recorded the complete Concerti Grossi at least twice in the last forty years; to us, this event is the search for a wrap-up, for a final outcome, after years of frequenting the music of Arcangelo Corelli – as our Concertmaster, Alessandro Tampieri, eloquently explains – “It means setting a significant milestone not only for our artistic growth but above all for our understanding of Corelli and Baroque music.”

Why do we so firmly believe that Corelli’s music can and should reach a wider audience? Because the poetics and the emotional narrative of this music have travelled through history without losing their power and intensity. As a tribute to this “timeless beauty”, and to make it even more accessible, we have produced a visual album, a series of music videos that illustrate five movements from the Concerti Grossi collection, unfolding like the chapters of a narrative. 

The visual album tells the story of an emotion: sensed, followed, at times pursued, through the choreography of two contemporary dancers, it moves through timeless, imaginary worlds. A journey to the sound of music, where Corelli‘s notes become doors to different spaces, eras and worlds.

The box set of Corelli’s Concerti Grossi Op. 6 was designed as a collector’s item for fans of AB, the maestro and baroque music. It is a proper “deluxe” limited edition print, containing two CDs; an 80-page booklet, in Italian and English, that delves into the history and style of the concertos and their new interpretation with quotes, illustrations and photographs; and a signed letter from conductor Ottavio Dantone. Those who would like to treat themselves or give it as a gift, perhaps with the upcoming Christmas in mind, can enjoy free shipping worldwide. Music must be allowed to travel far.

Eight of the collection’s twelve concertos were written for the church, while four are chamber concertos – the twelve of them are an all-round emotional journey. While the church concertos share a structure of alternating fugues and polyphonic movements, the chamber concertos focus on dances and lightness. Throughout, Corelli’s touch is evident, with the inclusion of structural rhythmic elements that, like “musical cells”, recur each time telling something new.

A unique, rich, distinctive writing that, as Ottavio Dantone points out, “allows the performer to add a highly creative element not only in the accompaniment but also in managing the interplay between concertino and concerto grosso, where a seamless dialogue is established between the soloists and the rest of the orchestra, sometimes in balance, sometimes in lively contrast. Moreover, the soloists can indulge in both extemporaneous and planned ornamentation, designed to intensify the linguistic and rhetorical relationship with this music”.

On top of all this was the enjoyment of playing together and our mutual understanding as an orchestra, which, in a technically and musically demanding performance such as Corelli’s, made all the difference. Our recording of the Concerti Grossi took place in a lovely week of early May at a theatre on the edge of a nine-hectare wood, under perfect conditions of harmony and inspiration; it is the result of a great deal of hard work, a constant dialogue and a profound shared understanding of every element and detail of performance and expression. 

The outcome is an interpretation that highlights the richness of Corelli’s work through honesty and respect for the score, but also for our modern sensibility.

“When I finally listened to the complete work, I felt the joy and privilege of having been part of an amazing journey, as well as witnessing the strength and vitality that the young – and not so young – members of Accademia have infused into this spectacular project. With these words by Ottavio Dantone, we now leave you to listen: enjoy your journey through the musical universe of Arcangelo Corelli.

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