Arcangelo Corelli (?) (review)
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Arcangelo Corelli (?). Le Sonate da camera di Assisi. Dal Ms. 177 della Biblioteca del Sacro Convento. Edizione critica a cura di Enrico Gatti. Saggio introduttivo di Guido Olivieri. Lucca: Libreria musicale italiana, 2015. [2 parts: Part 1: “The «Sonate da camera» of Assisi” in It. and Eng., p. 7–22; remarks and critical notes in It. and Eng., p. 23–41; facsimile score, p. 43–80. Part 2: edited score, p. 82–105. ISBN 978-88-7096-832-3. €35.]

This edition brings to life twelve secular sonatas ascribed to Arcangelo Corelli, found in a manuscript in the library of the Sacro Convento di San Francesco in Assisi (I-Af, shelf mark MS 177). The fruitful cooperation between Enrico Gatti and Guido Olivieri provides a significant new contribution on music attributed to Corelli, with a quality edition and a fine recording (Corelli, The “Assisi” Sonatas, Ensemble [End Page 770] Aurora, dir. Enrico Gatti, Glossa GCD 921209 [2014], CD).

Manuscript 177, copied by two scribes, collects miscellaneous works including, among others, Corelli’s opus 5 and two sonatas by Tomaso Albinoni. The copyist who wrote the majority of the manuscript also transcribed the Sonate da camera à violino e violoncello solo, which are the subject of this edition. Olivieri has extensively studied the manuscript and has established that its watermark connects the source to Bologna. The manuscript also includes a few works added by a second scribe, but the inscription on the spine “Op. V del Corelli. 1748. In Bologna” (p. 16) provides a possible time frame during which the first copyist transcribed the majority of the works. The manuscript was in the use of the Franciscan cellist Joseph Maria Galli (ca. 1720–1781).

The Sonate da camera à violino e violoncello solo were thus copied in Bologna sometime in the first half of the eighteenth century, and the inscription indicates Corelli as the composer. The plausibility of the ascription is a subject for debate. Olivieri maintains the likelihood of Corelli’s attribution, and supports his argument with the information provided in the introduction to this edition and in a recent article (Guido Olivieri, “Le sonate da camera di Assisi: Una nuova fonte corelliana?” in Arcomelo 2013: Studi nel terzo centenario della morte di Arcangelo Corelli, ed. Guido Olivieri and Marc Vanscheeuwijck [Lucca: Libreria musicale italiana, 2015], 31–54). But there have been musicologists in the past, such as Hans Joachim Marx, who considered these sonatas spurious.

In particular, two elements relate these sonatas to the Bolognese milieu of the late seventeenth century: the specific arrangement of the dances places the works in the last quarter of the century, and the use of the term “violoncello” suggests a connection to Bologna. Olivieri also comprehensively lists the analogies in style, structure, compositional formulas, and thematic material with other Corelli works, while also recognizing the differences with his printed output. The Sonate da camera à violino e violoncello solo appears to be an early work, possibly from the early 1670s or his early Roman years (pp. 17–18). But this conclusion seems discordant with the use of the term “violoncello” found in the source. While “violoncello” was increasingly used to refer to an 8-foot bass violin in church or devotional sacred music, “violone” was the preferred term in secular collections before 1685. For example, in Corelli’s Sonate da camera op. 2 (1685), the bass part is for “violone, o cimbalo.” Furthermore, contemporaneous bass parts in sonate da camera for the violin were rarely dedicated to one specific instrument, and were usually labeled with the generic term “basso” or for “violone e/o spinetta.” Nevertheless, the copyist who completed I-Af MS 177 might have changed the terminology or added “violoncello,” thereby following eighteenth-century practice. From the 1690s onward, a violoncello was more widely used both in secular and sacred contexts. In light of all this, I would have expected the editor to inform readers that, despite the label “violoncello,” it is more likely that the continuo bass line was intended to be played on a violone or keyboard instrument.

The use of “à violino e violoncello solo” recalls the chamber genre of violin and cello sonatas that thrived in the...