Lot 53
  • 53

Corelli, Arcangelo, (1653-1713)

8,000 - 10,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Corelli, Arcangelo
  • Fine and important letter to Count Fabrizio Laderchi about his first known work, written in an elegant contemporary scribal hand, 3 June 1679
  • ink,paper
sending him a copy of his sonata for violin and lute through the good offices of Scipione Zanelli, and assuring him that he is the only person in the world to have this music, save he himself who retains the original; Corelli suggests that, once the Count is satisfied with his Sonata performed with violin and lute, he might try it out with a violin and violone, since he feels that this will have the best effect of all, excusing himself and his brothers if it fails to measure up to the deep debt of gratitude that they all owe him, and conveying his deepest respects ("...Quando veda che la Sonata riesca a Violo e leuto, favorisca anco provarla à Violo e Violone perche spero che habbi à fare buonissimo effetto...")

1 page, 4to (c.27 x 20.5cm), anchor watermark, Rome, 3 June 1679;

together with a letter by Scipione Zanelli about the commission, addressed to Count Fabrizio Laderchi, assuring him that he knows Corelli well, and that he will find out where he lives and once he has received the sonatas and his answer, he will forward them to him immediately, 1 page, 4to, Rome, 29 April 1679 


C. Piancastelli, In onore di Arcangelo Corelli (1913), 39; M. Rinaldi, Arcangelo Corelli (1953), Document V (p.429); A. Cavicchi, 'Corelli e il violinismo bolognese' in Studi corelliani (1968), pp.36-39;  P. Allsop, Arcangelo Corelli (1999), p.30; NB: not listed in the Catalogo della mostra delle edizioni e manoscritti corelliani nelle raccolte Piancastelli della Biblioteca Comunale di Forlì (1967)


"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

THIS LETTER PROVIDES THE EARLIEST KNOWN WITNESS TO CORELLI AS A COMPOSER. Corelli is a key figure in the history of instrumental music. For centuries he was the most highly-regarded Italian Baroque composer, the most famous violinist, and the model for concertos and sonatas composed by Handel and countless other composers.  Contemporary sources concerning Corelli's music are of the greatest rarity, particularly one so early and offering such illuminating information about performance practice. Although written by a scribe, this letter is almost certainly the version sent by Corelli to his patron Laderchi, to accompany the manuscript of his sonata, delivered by Zanelli. The sonata is not one of the known published compositions, but a lost early work, written when the composer was twenty-four years of age. Count Laderchi was an official at the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and Corelli had written to him in May promising a sonata "in which the lute will have equal status to the violin".

Corelli's recommendation that the basso part should be realized on a violone offers an important insight into contemporary performance practice. This basso continuo provided merely a single written line with chord symbols: whereas this is now most commonly realized on a harpsichord, Baroque practice allowed for lute and cello or other string bass.  The reappearance of the original allows a correct interpretation, since from the published transcriptions, it was incorrectly inferred that Corelli recommended using a "violone piccolo" rather than a bass violin or violone (S. La Via, in Studi corelliani V (1990), 185; M. Vanscheeuwijck in Arcomelo 2013 (2015). 

This letter was once in the collection of Count Piancastelli and described by him as "an exact contemporary transcript".  This manuscript has not been available for study, even though the text was transcribed by Piancastelli (1913) and Rinaldi  (1953).   Autograph letters by Corelli are very rare.  Two letters formerly in the Heyer collection in Cologne are both written to his brother Ippolito: one dated 1704 (illustrated by Piancastelli) is now in the Morgan Library & Museum in New York; the other was sold in these rooms on 5 December 2003, Lot 59. 

Please see page 2 of this catalogue for a large image of this letter.