Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was a Venetian composer/musician who lived between 1678 to 1741. He is one of the most popular composers to come out of the Baroque period. Vivaldi was the son of a gifted violinist/composer by the name of Giovanni Battista. At his father’s direction Vivaldi became involved in playing the violin at an early age. This culminated with Vivaldi touring with his father to play music all around the Venice area. Due to this experience he got an early start in the music world and was well practiced for the attention and fame that would come later in his life.Portait of Vivaldi circa 1725 by Fran├žois Morellon de la Cave

Oddly enough despite his musical virtuosity Vivaldi went on to become a ordained priest at the age of 25. He was nick-named “The Red Priest” because of his bright red hair, something he and his father shared. This caricature would follow him throughout his career even comical cartoons by his critics would often portray some type of red godly figure playing the violin. Perhaps due to his godly inclinations Vivaldi began teaching at a orphanage. Back in those days orphanages would teach the children various skills to help them acclimate into society once they were of age. Typically boys were taught a trade and girls were taught music. This orphanage is where most of Vivaldi’s music was written. Indeed some of the grand pieces you hear today under Vivaldi’s name were originally written for orphans to practice and play for anyone who cared to listen. Talk about humble beginnings.

Vivaldi went on to great fame in the middle to later part of his career. “Red Priest” as he came to be known met with royalty and deity alike. Pope Benedict XIII invited him to Rome to play for him. He was commissioned by Louis XV to write a cantata for his wedding. He was even knighted by Emperor Charles VI whom after Vivaldi’s performance went on to have lengthily discussion with him(which apparently was rare) and invited him to Vienna. Yet despite all his fame and acclaims Vivaldi’s music fell out of popularity. Like today music came and went in trends even back in the 1700′s and Vivaldi fell victim to these trends. Having had to sell many of his manuscripts to cover his costs Vivaldi moved to Vienna to join Charles VI imperial court. Unfortunately for him though Charles died shortly after his arrival. Having nothing left to sell he himself died a short while later. It is recorded that he died in a saddle maker’s shop and was buried as a pauper on the grounds of a local hospital. And so ended such a rise and fall of one of the greatest composers to ever live.

The Four Seasons, is perhaps Vivaldi’s most famous work and possibly the most popular Baroque work of all. Like it’s name implies The Four Seasons is a series of four violin concertos intended to bring to mind the sounds of each particular season in musical form. The end result truly is magnificent. There are countless recordings of various professional musician’s portrayal of the Four Seasons. They have also been transcribed to many different instruments. I have heard multiple versions but most recently I’ve become found of Anne-Sophie Mutter’s take on them. If you are new to Vivaldi or classical music in general I’d strongly recommend this as a great place to start.

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