No northern-European court seemed complete without a slew of Italian musicians in service. The art collections of the northern- European salons were filled to the brim with Italian paintings. Italian opera houses sprung up all over Europe, even in France. Hoards of northern travellers journeyed to Italy to see the legendary cities of Rome, Milan, Florence and Venice, creating in their wake the new pilgrimage of “the grand tour”. Even whole new northern cities (such as St. Petersburg) were created after the Italian model.
In 18th-century northern Europe, the compositions of the Roman violinist and composer Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713) represented the musical epitome of Italian style. Corelli was the very definition of the “Italianissimo” that the rest of Europe lusted over. His music was regarded as classic, as the ultimate example of Italian instrumental virtuosity, expression and taste. Corelli became a phenomenon and acquired unprecedented international star status. He was seen to personify a style in the same way composers/ performers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrikx or Angus Young personify certain musical styles today. Corelli was the hard rocker of his day - a cult figure with a cult following. And, after his death, people continued to worship him. His works became the model for thousands of sonatas, his style the inspiration for a myriad of performers and his improvised figuration and ornamentation the stuff of legends. No other composer was so constantly reprinted throughout the 18th century: no other dead performer was imitated with such frenzy.