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La Folia in d minor

From the CD "The Book of Baroque According to the Guitar of LVJ" Composed by Arcangelo Corelli 1653-1713 Sonata No. 12 Op. 5 Transcribed & Performed by Louis Valentine Johnson DR. MARK A. RADICE writes in the CD liner notes about this composition: The earliest examples or pieces bearing the designation folia are Portuguese works of the fifteenth century. These compositions characteristically combined vernacular texts with instruments in performance of a repetitious succession of chords. By the early seventeenth century, folia settings as choral dances with the accompaniment of the five-course guitar had become popular. According to Covarrubian Horozco (Tesoro de las lengua castellana o Espanola, 1611) the dance at that time was “so fast that…the dancers seemed out of their minds.”

Not long afterwards, the folia was imported—along with the five-course guitar—to Italy, where Francesco Corbetta (1615-1681) made great use of both. Corelli represents the middle Baroque tradition of the Italian string school that was inaugurated by the trio sonatas of Salamone Rossi (1570-ca. 1630) on the one hand and the string orchestra o the Basilica of San Petronio (Bologna) and the works written for it by Maurizio Cassati (ca. 1620-1677) on the other. Corelli continued to give his name on published scores with the annotation “il Bolognese.” Arcangelo Corelli’s folia setting heard here concludes his set of twelve solo sonatas for violin and continuo that were published as Op. 5 in the year 1700. These twenty-four variations are a tour de force not only of compositional technique, but of performance technique as well. At the same time, this piece, like all of Corelli’s works avoids empty displays of virtuosity.

Corelli was very particular about the details of his publications; opportunities nevertheless exist for the performer to add ornamentation to the passages as they are printed in the scores. Formally the piece is a double hybrid since it combines the harmonic plan of the folia, the meter of the sarabande, and variation technique as well. In addition to the folia settings presented here, I should note that others were written by Alessandro Scarlatti, Johann Pepusch, J.S. Bach, S.P.E. Bach, Franz Liszt, and Manuel María Ponce. To this list numerous additional names could be added .

Lou Johnson has transcribed Corelli’s famous composition from the violin and continuo facsimile, arranged it, and recorded it here for solo guitar.

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