William Corbett (1680–1748)
6 Sonatas, op. 3
for trumpet (or oboe), 2 violins, & continuo
Edited by Justin Bland
PDF Download of Full Score and Instrumental Parts
The English violinist, composer, and collector William Corbett was baptized on 18 July 1680 in London. He served as the leader of the orchestra at the new Queen’s Theatre in the Haymarket from 1705 to 1711. He was in high demand as a violin soloist, being regularly promoted as the main attraction at benefit concerts in London; it is also documented that he appeared in Nottingham in 1707 and 1709 and in York in 1709. In 1709, he was hired at London’s royal orchestra.
Although Corbett resided intermittently in Italy from 1711 to about 1740, he periodically returned to London to publish music and perform (he remained nominally attached to the royal orchestra, which paid Corbett’s salary until his death). In Italy, he built up a substantial collection of music and instruments. While he profited from the sale of some of his music and instruments in 1724 and again in 1741 shortly after his return to London, he retained a considerable portion of the collection, including the most valuable violins, until his death on 7 March 1748.
Corbett is often recognized for his penchant for the bizarre and the original, both in relation to his concerts and his compositions. He, for example, included the viola d’amore, archlute, and mandolin at his benefit concerts, and the music historian Charles Burney (1726–1814) noted that he advertised a concert ‘on a particular new instrument never yet heard of in England’ in 1724. While his third opus does not contain any unusual instruments per se, the last two sonatas are quite unusual in their tuning. Being both in E major, they require the use of a trumpet crooked in E. This crooking is rather rare for natural trumpet, with one other noteworthy example being a virtuosic concerto by Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch (1736–1800) for trumpet, violin, and oboe d’amore (also edited by the undersigned and published by Septenary Editions—catalogue number SE1-007).