He was born at Fusignano near Imola and little is known about his life. His master on the violin was Bassani. Matteo Simonelli, the well-known singer of the popeís chapel, taught him composition.
His first decided success was gained in Paris at the age of nineteen. To this he owed his European reputation. From Paris Corelli went to Germany. In 1681 he was in the service of the electoral prince of Bavaria; between 1680 and 1685 he spent a considerable time in the house of his friend Farinelli. In 1685 he was certainly in Rome, where he led the festival performances of music for Queen Christina of Sweden and was also a favourite of Cardinal Ottoboni (who in 1689 became Pope Alexander VIII). From 1689 to 1690 he was in Modena, the duke of which city made him handsome presents. In 1708 he went once more to Rome, living in the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni. His visit to Naples, at the invitation of the king, took place in the same year.
The style of execution introduced by Corelli and preserved by his pupils, such as Geminiani, Locatelli, and many others, has been of vital importance for the development of violin-playing, but he employed only a limited portion of his instrumentís compass, as may be seen by his writings, wherein the parts for the violin never proceed above D on the first string, the highest note in the third position; it is even said that he refused to play, as impossible, a passage which extended to A in altissimo in the overture to Handelís oratorio Trionfo del Tempo (premiered in Rome, 1708), and took serious offence when the composer played the note in evidence of its practicability.
His compositions for the instrument mark an epoch in the history of chamber music; for his influence was not confined to his own country. "Even Sebastian Bach submitted to it." Musical society in Rome owed much to Corelli. He was received in the highest circles of the aristocracy, and arranged and for a long time presided at the celebrated Monday concerts in the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni.
Corelli died possessed of a sum of 120,000 marks and a valuable collection of pictures, the only luxury in which he had indulged. He left both to his benefactor and friend, who, however, generously made over the money to Corelli's relations. He is buried in the Pantheon at Rome.
Corelliís compositions are distinguished by a beautiful flow of melody and by a mannerly treatment of the accompanying parts, which he is justly said to have liberated from the strict rules of counterpoint.
Six collections of concerti, sonatas and minor pieces for violin, with accompaniment of other instruments, besides several concerted pieces for strings, are authentically ascribed to this composer. The most important of these is the XII Suonati a violino e viol one o limbalo (Rome, 1700).