Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) has been called the "World´s First Great Violinist" and did much to give the violin its prominent place in music. He was also one of the most influential composers of his generation as well as an outstanding teacher - among his pupils were Vivaldi and Geminiani. Corelli´s popularity as a violinist was as great in his time as was Paganini´s during the 19th century. According to contemporary reports the most remarkable feature of his playing was the beautiful singing tone he managed to extract from the instrument.
Born in Fusignano, Italy, Corelli established himself in Rome in the 1670s. Thanks to his growing international reputation he easily obtained the support of influential patrons, among them Queen Christina of Sweden, who had moved to Rome after her abdication. Corelli was now both rich and famous, but is said to have remained very modest and mild-tempered. Portraits from the time emphasize the composer´s archangel-like serenity. Only in performance, "it was usual for his countenance to be distorted, his eyes to become as red as fire, and his eyeballs to roll as if in an agony". Corelli´s compositional output was rather small, but his music was performed and studied throughout all Europe.
The Sonatas Op. 5 include the famous "La Folia" variations for violin and accompaniment. But it was in his Concerti Grossi Op. 6 that he reached his creative peak. With these works, which became some of the most famous music of the time, Corelli proved the potentialities of the Concerto Grosso form and laid the foundation for the achievements of Vivaldi, Bach and Handel in the same genre.
Having dominated the musical scene in Rome for more than three decades, Corelli died a very wealthy and well-respected man and was interred in the Pantheon.