Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (March 4, 1678 – July 28, 1941) was an Italian composer, violinist, and priest whose compositions earned him recognition as one of the greatest composers of Baroque music of his time. Vivaldi composed much of his work for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for orphaned children where Vivaldi had worked for several years. He composed concertos, sacred choral works, and over forty operas. He is best remembered for his violin concertos, The Four Seasons.
Caricature of Antonio Vivaldi by Pier Leone Ghezzi in 1723.
"The Red Priest, composer of music who made the opera at the Capranica of 1723."
Vivaldi began studying for the priesthood when he was fifteen, and became known as il Prete Rosso, "The Red Priest", because of his red hair. He was ordained in 1703 at the age of 25. Soon after, he became maestro di violino (master of violin) at the Ospedale della Pietà (Devout Hospital of Mercy) in Venice. Vivaldi wrote several major works while working there over the next few decades, including concertos, sacred vocal arrangements, and cantatas. He was eventually promoted to maestro di' concerti (music director) in 1716.
In 1705, Vivaldi composed Opus 1, which included 12 sonatas, as did Opus 2. The third opus in 1711, was a collection of 12 concerti for one, two, and four violins. Known as L'estro armonico, the collection made Vivaldi quite famous throughout Europe, and it is likely that he met the Grand Prince Ferdinand of Tuscany. In 1714, Vivaldi released Opus 4, La stravaganza.
Around 1717, Vivaldi took on the position of Maestro di Cappella of the court of prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, governor of Mantua. He composed several operas there, and eventually moved to Rome and played for the new pope Benedict XIII. In 1725, he returned to compose four more operas. It was during this period that Vivaldi composed his most famous work, the Four Seasons, a collection of four violin concertos meant to evoke imagery of each season. They included representations of different species of singing birds, dogs barking, shepherds crying, flowing creeks, storms, dancers, hunting parties, winter fires, and other scenes. They were published as part of Opus 8, Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, in 1725.
The complete Four Seasons
Aleksandr Hrustevich plays "Summer" from the Four Seasons on the bayan. Read our interview with Aleksandr here
Between 1723 and 1733, Vivaldi composed at least 140 concerti for the Pietà. His liturgical works for the Pietà includes Juditha triumphans, one of his most sacred masterpieces. Vivaldi composed several eras that were performed throughout Italy, and he enjoyed considerable popularity. In a letter to his patron Marchese Bentivoglio in 1737, Vivaldi referenced 94 operas, although only 50 have been found. Additionally, some of his known works have been lost, or are only partially discovered.
La Silvia Aria, "Abbia respiro il cor"
Motezuma Aria ''In mezzo alla procella'' RV723
Vivaldi was popular with European royalty and was commissioned to write a wedding cantata for the marriage of Louis XV, Gloria e Imeneo. He dedicated Opus 9, La Cetra, to Emperor Charles VI, who knighted Vivaldi, and with whom he developed a close friendship.
Gloria e Imeneo, RV 687, Part 1
La Cetra, No, 11 in C minor
Sadly, Vivaldi fell victim to changing musical tastes throughout the continent, and his music fell out of favor, especially after the death of Charles VI. It is likely that he had intended to take a position as the composer for the court of Rome, but Charles VI died soon after Vivaldi left Rome for a trip to Vienna. Toward the end of his life, he was forced to sell large chunks of his manuscript for very small sums, and he quickly became impoverished. He died in 1741 at the age of 63 and was buried in a simple grave.
- Birthday Date: Tuesday, 04 March 2014