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Antonio VIVALDI
4 March 1678 - 28 July 1741 (age 63)

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 ©

- Family

- Works

- Career

- Revival

- Links

Portrait of Vivaldi


Family

Born: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, 4 March 1678 in Venice, Italy
Father: Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, barber and professional violinist at the San Marco basilica.
Mother: Camilla Calicchio
Siblings: eldest of nine. 4 brothers and 4 sisters.
Partners: none
Children: none 
Died: 28 July 1741 in Vienna, Austria
Cause of death: heart attack
Grave: umarked grave at the Vienna Spitaller Gottsacker now the site of the Vienna University of Technology.
see findagrave


Works

Period: Baroque
Output: prolific
Orchestral music:
- over 500 concertos of which over 230 for the violin
including the 'Four Seasons'
Chamber music:
- 73 sonatas of which 40 for the violin
Sacred music:
- Gloria
- Magnificat
- psalms, motets and hymns
Choral and vocal music:
46 operas of which about 20 survive

for a complete list of his works see:
http://www.classical.net/music/composer/works/vivaldi/index.php


Four Seasons (Winter)
Played by I Musici


Career

His father, a talented violinist, was his first teacher. They also performed together.
- age 15 he began studying for the priesthood. 10 years of study during which he also developed his musical and composing talents.
- age 25 ordained priest. Nicknamed 'the Red Priest' because of his red hair.
Appointed violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà orphanage for girls in Venice
- The Pietà served as his base for most most of his working life. 
- From age 40 he travelled a lot and was often away working on other projects around Italy, Germany, Austria, Bohemia, France and Holland. He had an agreement with the Pietà to regularly send them two concerti per month and to rehearse and teach there when he was in Venice.
- At age 62 he moved to Vienna where he was to be appointed composer to the Imperial Court of Charles VI, one of his big fans. Unfortunately Charles died just after he arrived, leaving Antonio without an income and in dire straits.
- Soon after this tragedy Antonio himself fell ill and died.


Money

- 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.


Images of Vivaldi

A collection of Vivaldi related images from art, cartoon, caricatures, album covers, postage stamps, etc.


Health

- 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.


Love life

- 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.


Gloria by 'Vivaldi's Women' in the Pietà church, Venice
One of the highlights of a stay in Venice when doing the 18th century Grand Tour was to go to the Pietà church and hear the girls singing in the choir. This wonderful video is a reconstruction of the experience.


 Flute Concerto in D, Allegro and Cantabile, (part one of two)

Played by 9 year old Emma

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:
http://www.baroquemusic.org/bqxvivaldi2.html


Links, sources and where to go for more information

Answers.com several reference sites including Wikipedia

BaroqueMusic.org biography and more

ClassicFM

ClassicalNet biography and recommendations

Italian Composers - more profiles here at 52composers.com

More Baroque composers

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