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1678 1741

Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi, Antonio
  • Possibly the best-known Italian Baroque composer, Vivaldi wrote more than 400 concertos (such as his famous Four Seasons), thus cementing the basics of this now-standard musical form.

Vital Statistics

Born: March 4, 1678, Venice
Died: July 28, 1741, Vienna
Nationality: Italian
Genre: Baroque
Performed as: Violinist
During the composer's lifetime: Venice’s preeminence in musical life begins to decline. Age of “absolute” monarchs: Louis XIV and Louis XV of France, Peter “the Great” of Russia, Charles XII of Sweden, and Leopold I of Austria, among others.

Biographical Outline

  • Theological training: Vivaldi started as a priest in Venice, but in 1706 he was kicked out for preferring music to Mass.
  • First gig, 1703-1716: Appointed director of the string orchestra at Pio Ospedale della Pietà (Pious Hospital of Mercy), a prestigious girls’ orphanage in Venice famous for its musical training program. Visitors would attend its church services because of the music and the concerts afterward.
  • Turning point, 1711: Vivaldi’s set of 12 concertos titled L’estro armonico  (Harmonic invention), became a best-seller, possibly the most influential music publication of the early 18th century. His next publication, La stravaganza, another set of 12 concertos, confirmed his reputation.
  • Opera and church: Vivaldi wrote many religious works for the Pietà orphanage, culminating in his second oratorio, Juditha triumphans (Judith triumphant, 1716). Meanwhile, he got into opera as a theater manager and a composer.
  • Publishing wizard: Between 1723 and 1729, Vivaldi was contracted to supply two concertos per month to the Pietà hospital. He wrote at least 140 and published some of them. The Op. 8, Il cimento dell’ armonia e dell’ inventione (The contest between harmony and invention, 1725), contains his famous Four Seasons.
  • On the move: Vivaldi spent most of the 1730s producing his operas in various cities. At the time of his death, his fortunes had reached a low ebb. He died in Vienna, too sick and too poor to return to Venice.

Fun Facts

  • The “Red Priest”: Like his father, Vivaldi had flaming red hair, hence his nickname.
  • Notorious: Vivaldi was reputedly vain and conceited, yet energetic and talented.
  • Spin Master: Vivaldi claimed to have composed 94 operas, but less than 50 are confirmed. He also claimed to compose music faster than it could be copied.
  • The formula: The common criticism that Vivaldi’s music repeats itself too much originated with musicians and writers in the 18th century.
  • Traveler: Although Vivaldi suffered from a serious lifelong condition (probably asthma), he took frequent trips abroad, often with a large entourage.
  • Influence: Vivaldi was enormously popular in Germany. Bach transcribed some of the Opus 3 concertos, which influenced both the style and the form of his own concertos.

Recommended Biography

  • Michael Talbot, Vivaldi, 2nd ed. Master Musicians Series (Oxford University, 2000).
  • Karl Heller, Antonio Vivaldi, English edition, 1997, (e-book version)

Explore the Music

  • Vivaldi wrote more than 400 concertos, which are the basis of his fame. Beyond them lie the vocal works, which are beginning to be recorded more often. The most famous of these is the choral Gloria in D, RV 589.

Recommended Websites

The Four Seasons, Complete (Violin & Piano Reduction) look inside The Four Seasons, Complete (Violin & Piano Reduction) (Four Concertos for Violin and Orchestra). By Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). Edited by Rok Klopcic. For solo violin and piano. String. Baroque. Difficulty: medium. Performance part and piano reduction. Solo part, piano reduction, bowings, fingerings, introductory text and performance notes. 78 pages. G. Schirmer #LB2047. Published by G. Schirmer (HL.50485535)

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6 Sonatas For Cello And Piano look inside 6 Sonatas For Cello And Piano (Cello and Piano). By Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). Edited by Nikolai Graudan and N Graudan. For cello and piano (Cello). String Solo. Baroque. Difficulty: medium. Set of performance parts (includes separate pull-out cello part). Solo part, piano accompaniment and performance notes. 73 pages. G. Schirmer #LB1794. Published by G. Schirmer (HL.50261790)

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