Antonio Vivaldi, 'the Red Priest', Italian 18th century Baroque composer, violinist, teacher, priest, opera impresario. His Four Seasons is the most played piece of classical music in the world.
Portrait by Paul Helm ©
Born: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, 4 March 1678 in Venice, Italy
for a complete list of his works see:
His father, a talented violinist, was his first teacher. They also performed together.
- His parents did not earn much and they had a large family of 9 children to support.
- Studying for the priesthood was a means of obtaining a good education free of charge.
- His work for the Pietà ensured him a steady income for most of his working life.
- He earned money from selling his compositions. His main publisher was in Amsterdam.
- He composed music on commission for wealthy patrons including Luis XV of France.
- He wrote, directed and produced operas in Venice and throughout Italy. He was an impresario and lost a lot of money on some of his less successful operatic productions.
- At age 61 he had to sell his manuscipts to finance his final trip to Vienna.
- He died destitute and was buried in a pauper's grave.
A collection of Vivaldi related images from art, cartoon, caricatures, album covers, postage stamps, etc.
- At birth it seems there was a problem as the midwife performed an emergency baptism as his life was in danger.
- Throughout his life he suffered from breathing difficulties, probably asthmatic. This prevented him from playing wind instruments. It was also his excuse for giving up his priestly duties, although it did not prevent him from conducting and teaching.
- The official cause of death was 'internal inflammation' which is rather vague and could mean any of a number of causes but was probably asthmatic bronchitis.
- Antonio was ordained as a catholic priest at the age of 26. This involves taking the vow of chastity. Although he gave up celebrating the Mass soon after ordination, he never renounced the priesthood, never married and remained a priest all his life.
- Very little is known about his private life and people love to speculate. Most of his working life was involved with the girls of the Pietà orphanage for girls. There is no evidence of anything but a dedicated hard working highly productive and creative output.
- The only 'scandal' was his attachment to the soprano Anna Giro who sang in his operas. She was 17 and he was 48 when they met. She and her sister Paolina accompanied him on his travels around Europe and they lived in his house. He insisted that they provided necessary care for him in his poor health and that there was no romantic involvement. The gossips obviously thought otherwise.
Lute Concerto in D
Played by Julian Bream
Concerto for 2 Trumpets in C major
Video recorded at a youth concert held in Győr, Hungary
The Vivaldi Revival
- Vivaldi is a recent 'discovery'. It wasn't until the 1950s that he started to become popular.
- During his lifetime the 'prete rosso' was a successful composer, concerts by the girls of the Pietà were a popular attraction in Venice both to the Venetians and to the many visitors. His work was published by the leading European music printer Estienne Roger. Louis XV of France and Charles VI of Austria were enthusiastic fans.
- He was an influence on JS Bach who arranged 10 of his concertos for other instruments.
- But towards the end of his life his music gradually fell out of favour, partly because of changes in taste and partly through disapproval by the authorities and the church of his relationship with the singer Anna Giraud.
- After his death his music seemed to have died with him.
- Then in 1926 a large quantity of his manuscripts were found near Turin. This was the start of his renaissance - a fascinating story.
- Here is a link to what happened next:
Answers.com several reference sites including Wikipedia
BaroqueMusic.org biography and more
ClassicalNet biography and recommendations
Italian Composers - more profiles here at 52composers.com
More Baroque composers