At the turn of the 18th century, a special musical tradition emerged for Christmas concertos in Italy. This developed into a veritable fashion, always with gentle, melodious tunes and very frequently with a piece designed to evoke country moods, with animals and shepherds around the stable when Jesus was born and laid in a manger. The most famous of all Christmas concertos was that by Arcangelo Corelli, who was kapellmeister for the learned and incredibly rich Roman cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (whose eagerness as a patron of the arts unfortunately led to his being completely ruined by the time he died in 1740). Corelli was given a place to live in the cardinal’s Roman residence, Palazzo della Cancelleria, but by then his concerto ‘created for Christmas night’ had long since become immensely popular and something of a template for later Christmas concertos. It was probably written as early as about 1690. When Corelli died in 1713, he bequeathed everything he owned to the cardinal, who in return obtained for him a monument in the Pantheon. Corelli gained the reputation of being the supreme maestro of the so-called concerto grosso, in which a number of soloists perform in alternation with the orchestra. This genre became extremely widespread from the 1680s and during the first half of the 18th century.
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