12 Concerti Grossi, Op. 6/1-12

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Arcangelo Corelli. 12 Concerti grossi, Op. 6/1-12. Edited by Richard Platt. New Urtext Edition. London: Ernst Eulenburg Ltd., c1997. [Pref. in Eng., Gen, Fr., p. v-xxxvii; textual notes, p. xxxviii-xlvi; facsim. reprod, of 1714 title page, p. xlviii; score, 287 p. ISMN M-2002-1891-6; ISBN 3-7957-6726-1; Edition Eulenburg no. 1826-37; EE 6882. £18.]

What value is it still possible to add to a scholarly edition of Arcangelo Corelli's venerable and venerated Concerti grossi, op. 6, first issued in a modern edition in 1891 by Joseph Joachim and Friedrich Chrysander (Les oeuvres de Arcangelo Corelli, vols. 4-5 [London: Augener; reprint, 1952, 1965, etc.]; and as Complete Concerti grossi [New York: Dover, 1988]) and published as the fourth volume of the Corelli Gesamtausgabe in 1978 (ed. Rudolf Bossard [Cologne: Arno VoIk])? As far as the score is concerned, there is little enough to do, since there exists a clearly identified editio princeps, brought out in Amsterdam by Estienne Roger in 1714, which is so accurate in textual terms as to prompt a claim (only slightly exaggerated) that it is error-free. The one extant source that does not go back, directly or indirectly, to this edition consists of drafts of two movements in the composer's hand preserved in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Mus. Ms. autogr. A. Corelli 1). These are the Corrente of the tenth concerto and the optional Pastorale concluding the eighth concerto, "fatto per Ia notte di Natale."

The prime justification for a new edition, leaving aside purely commercial factors, has to be the quality of the information provided on the circumstances of composition of these classic works and possibly also on their reception history and matters of performance practice. In the year preceding the copyright date (1997) of this Eulenburg edition, there appeared a seminal article by the Dutch scholar Rudolf Rasch, the leading modern authority on the Roger-Le Cène publishing firm, which clarified once and for all the sequence of events attending the publication of Corelli's concertos ("Corelli's Contract: Notes on the Publication History of the Concerti Grossi . . . Opera Sesta [1714]," Tijdschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muuekgeschiedenis 46 [1996]: 83-136). On 21 April 1712, the ailing composer entered into a contract with Roger whereby, in return for supplying the concertos, he or his heirs would receive 150 complimentary copies of the edition. The reasoning behind this payment in kind was that in Rome and indeed in the whole of Italy, where Roger's editions did not ordinarily circulate, the composer would be able to market the edition himself and gain an ample reward by doing so. Corelli penned a dedication to the elector Palatine, Johann Wilhelm, which is dated 3 December 1712 (Rasch suggests that, in view of Corelli's poor health, the dedication was ghostwritten by his patron, Cardinal Ottoboni).

By the time that the engraving of the edition was complete in the fall of 1714, Corelli had been dead for a year. In his will he had stipulated that his manuscripts and opus 6 should become the property of Matteo Fornari, a leading Roman violinist who had been his steadfast colleague in trios and concertos for several years. Fornari accordingly became the recipient of the complimentary copies. But before sending a bound example of the edition to the elector or selling the remainder locally, Fornari suppressed Corelli's original letter of dedication (which Roger, however, continued to use) and substituted one signed by himself, dated 20 November 1714, which he modeled in graphic respects on the engraved dedication of Corelli's opus 5 (1700). Rasch surmises that Fornari's main purpose in doing this was to emphasize his own role (in reality, very minor) in bringing the project to fruition and thus to increase the likelihood of receiving a gratuity from the elector.

Rasch's findings lay to rest the earlier widespread suspicion that the 1712 dedication was a later forgery designed to validate the authenticity of this posthumous opus. …