Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)

Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque composer, violinist, and priest. He was born in Venice and lived almost his entire life there. At the age of twenty-five, he became the “violin master” at a children’s orphanage, where he remained until the last year of his life. He taught the girls’ music ensemble at the orphanage and many of his sacred vocal works and violin pieces were written and performed by the girls.

Vivaldi wrote over 40 operas, as well as several sacred vocal and choral work, but he is primarily remembered for his concertos, numbering over 500. His most famous collection of violin concertos is the “Four Seasons,” with one concerto for each of the four seasons of the year. Although most of his concertos are for the violin, he also wrote numerous concertos for a variety of instruments, including the flute, piccolo, cello, and even 37 concertos for the bassoon.

Vivaldi had several successes with his choral works, notably his Gloria and the oratorio Juditha Triumphans (based on the apocryphal Bible story of Judith, which Vivaldi wrote to celebrate a Venetian victory over the Turks), as well as operas such as L’Olimpiade, a sort of romantic comedy set during the Olympic Games in Greece. Through public performances of these and other works, Vivaldi became friends with Emperor Charles VI, who knighted him and offered repeated invitations to come to Vienna to compose. Unfortunately, when Vivaldi finally accepted his offer and moved to Vienna, the Emperor died shortly afterwards, leaving Vivaldi without a sponsor in the city. He died in Vienna just a few months afterwards as a pauper.

Although Vivaldi’s music was very popular and influential during his time, (especially on J. S. Bach), it was  largely forgotten after his death until it was revived in the early 20th century by the Italian composer Afredo Casella, the conductor Arturo Toscanini, and violinist Fritz Kreisler. Today, Vivaldi is considered to be one of the greatest baroque composers, along with Bach and Handel, and recordings and performances of his music number in the thousands.

Suggested Listening:

Suggested Reading:

H.C. Robbins Landon. Vivaldi: Voice Of The Baroque.