Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian composer and violinist of the Baroque period, as well as being a priest and teacher. He influenced many composers with his innovative use of Baroque music.
He wrote over five hundred concerto’s (almost half of these were for the violin) and 46 operas.
His father Giovanni Battista Vivaldi was originally a barber however he became a violinist to the San Marco Basilica in Venice in 1685. He was Antonio’s primary teacher and the two of them toured Venice together.
As the eldest child (of six children) Vivaldi studied to be a priest at the age of fifteen and was ordained ten years later. His distinguishable curly red hair earned him the nickname of il Pretto Rosso (The Red Priest). Soon after being ordained he was given an exemption probably due to his health – his illness made it difficult for him to speak due to his chest.
In 1703 Vivaldi went to work at an orphanage for girls called Pio Ospedale della Pietà. He worked there for thirty seven years as a composer, teacher and conductor.
Vivaldi was commissioned by royalty and became acquainted with them:
- The French ambassador to Venice commissioned Vivaldi to compose the cantata Gloria e Imeneo (RV687) to celebrate the wedding of Louis XV.
- La Sena festeggiante (RV694) was commissioned by the French Embassy to celebrate the birth of the French royal princesses;
- Vivaldi dedicated Opus 9, La Cetra to Emperor Charles IV and he gave Vivaldi the title of Knight, a gold medal and an invitation to Vienna.
Vivaldi is most famous for his incredible Four Seasons. Here is a beautiful version of Part 1, Spring:
Did you Know?
· After his birth Vivaldi was immediately baptised, it is thought that this was due to an earthquake that took place in Venice that day or his ill health.
· Vivaldi’s had asthma which didn’t affect his violin playing but did prevent him from ever playing wind instruments.
· Vivaldi’s music influenced Johann Sebastian Bach.
Despite his incredible successes Vivaldi’s career declined in his later years as people’s tastes moved on and his music was no longer fashionable. He sold off his manuscripts way under their market value to finance a trip to Vienna, however on arrival in Vienna Emporer Charles VI died which was the last royal connection he had.
In 1741 Vivaldi fell ill and died aged sixty three, he had a very simple funeral sadly without any music suggesting he died in poverty.