Arcangelo Corelli

Concerto Grosso in G minor ("Christmas Concerto"), Op. 6/8

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Although one cannot be sure, Arcangelo Corelli's famous Christmas Concerto -- the Concerto grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8 ("Fatto per la notte di Natale," as the inscription actually reads) -- may well have been composed a full quarter century before it first appeared in print, posthumously, in 1714; there is a record of Corelli having, in 1690, performed a Christmas Concerto for the enjoyment of his then-new patron, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. The Christmas Concerto is easily Corelli's best-known piece of music, though isolated movements from the sonatas have, through other composers' adaptations, achieved vast individual fame. It is at heart an example of the sonata da chiesa, expanded from the usual four movements to five and incorporating into the last movement a rolling, 12/8 meter Pastorale ad libitum. Like the rest of the Op. 6 concerti, it is scored for a concertante group consisting of two violins and a cello and a larger tutti ensemble.

    The normal slow-fast-slow-fast organization of the sonata da chiesa underlies everything that happens in the Christmas Concerto; but Corelli at several key points makes a concerted effort to turn that textbook organization on its head. Six measures of fiery Vivace preface the opening Grave movement, and the third movement (Adagio) has a central Allegro episode in which the first solo violin and first tutti violins suddenly break out with a rapid, ruffled sixteenth note oscillation (complex first movement structures that incorporate many changes of tempo are not at all unusual throughout Op. 6, indeed, the opening movement of Op. 6, No. 1 has no fewer than seven tempo indications in it!).

    The second movement is in the usual binary form, and is built around Corelli's favorite kind of staggered, imitative suspensions. The fourth movement, Vivace, which would normally be the finale, is very short, so as to make room for the sizeable fifth movement, the body of which is an Allegro, but the true heart of which is that most famous of all Corelli music: the lovely, serene Pastorale (Largo).

    Parts/Movements

    1. 1. Vivace
    2. 1. Grave
    3. 2. Allegro
    4. 3. Adagio - Allegro - Adagio
    5. 4. Vivace
    6. 5. Allegro
    7. 5. Pastorale. Largo

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 BIS BIS 2235
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295924652
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295925116
    2016 ATMA Classique ACD 22742
    2016 Naxos 8578320-21
    2015 Ars Produktion ARS 38164
    2014 L'Oiseau-Lyre / Decca 4786753
    2014 Alto MCSCD 1254
    2014 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 349
    2013 Edition Lilac / New Trinity Baroque 2912112
    2013 Haenssler / Haenssler Classics CD 98019
    2013 Acanta 233744
    2013 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 325
    2012 Linn Records CKD 411
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94420
    2012 Oehms Classics OC 419
    2012 Atoll ACD 406
    2011 Capriccio Records CAP 5108
    2011 Warner Classics 2564632642
    2011 Warner Classics 632646
    2011 X5 Music Group X 5CD103
    2011 Berlin Classics 0300276 BC
    2010 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi / DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 8869787629
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 50140607
    2010 Music & Melody MUS 50042
    2010 NEOS 90902
    2010 Linus 270126
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