Antonio Vivaldi

Born a sickly child to a Venetian violinist, Antonio Vivaldi (1678– 1741) entered the priesthood in 1703. He quickly became a violin teacher, a conductor, and a composer-in-residence at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà, a Venetian conservatory for orphaned girls. The young women were trained rigorously in music, and their concerts, often comprised of Vivaldi’s original works, were very popular with the city’s music-loving audiences.

Vivaldi was stunningly prolific, producing more than 500 concertos in his lifetime, more than any other known composer. Although Vivaldi composed vocal works, most of his pieces are instrumental, and he is most famous in that area. His concertos are beautifully expressive, covering a range of emotions, from delicate sadness to majestic bombast.

Many of Vivaldi’s works were programmatic—meant to tell a story, evoke an emotion, or give the impression of real-life events, usually in the cycle of nature. The concertos often took the form of three movements: an allegro (brisk tempo) movement, a slow movement in the same or related key, and a concluding allegro movement, even more lively than the first.

Vivaldi’s compositions have titles like The Night, The Storm at Sea, and The Goldfinch, but his most famous is The Four Seasons, a catchy set of four concertos that remains one of the most popular pieces of Western classical music today. With this and other pieces, Vivaldi revolutionized the role of the soloist, giving it unprecedented importance with his extraordinary sense of drama and flourish. Vivaldi also had a huge influence on Johann Sebastian Bach and on the composers of the classical era with his memorable themes, adventurous rhythmic motifs, and the overall clarity of his compositions.

ADDITIONAL FACTS

  1. An abbreviation of the words Laus Deo Beataeque Mariae Deiparae Amen appeared at the top of most of Vivaldi’s manuscripts. It means, “Honor to God and to Blessed Mary [the mother of God].”
  2. Vivaldi is thought to have earned 50,000 ducats a year at one point in his
 
 
 

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