Antonio Lucio Vivaldi

(4 march 1678, Venice - 28 July 1741, Vienna)


Known as one of the most representative characters which contributed to the development and crystallization of the baroque musical language and style, Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and cleric. He is known mainly for composing many instrumental concertos for the violin and a variety of other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and operas.


Vivaldi's father (Giovanni Battista Vivaldi), who was first a barber before becoming a professional violinist, was the first to teach Antonio how to play the violin. Besides having learned music from an early age, another advantage was the flourishing reputation of baroque Venice as the highest musical center in Europe, due to its four conservatories of music. What seemed to be at first charitable foundations, developed in time into music schools, and by the early 1700s, their excellence was unrivaled.


As he was diagnosed with a chronic disease (speculated to be asthma), he started to drift from his ecclesiastic duties. In September 1703, employed by the Ospedale della Pietà orphanage (generally accepted as being the best of the four Ospedali), Vivaldi was named maestro di violino (master of violin), for which he worked most of his life composing concertos. Over the next 30 years he composed most of his major works while working here. Shortly after Vivaldi's appointment, the orphans began to gain appreciation and esteem abroad too. Vivaldi's works composed for the orphanage included: concertos, cantatas and sacred vocal music. In 1704, in addition to his duties as violin instructor, he received the position of teacher of viola all'inglese.


Although he remained loyal to Ospedale della Pietà until 1740, Vivaldi traveled more and more as a composer and virtuous to Rome, where he played for the Pope, to Dresda, Darmstadt, Amsterdam, Florence, Prague and Vienna. Having these duties, already too tiresome for a man who complained about his health, in 1713 the overflowing activity as an impresario (manager) and opera composer was assumed. In 1717 or 1718, Vivaldi was offered a new prestigious position as Maestro di Cappella of the court of prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, governor of Mantua. He lived there for 3 years in which he produced several operas, among which was Tito Manlio (RV 738). During his time in Mantua, Vivaldi became acquainted with an aspiring young singer Anna Tessieri Girò who was to become his student, protégée, and favorite prima donna. Anna, along with her older half-sister Paolina, became part of Vivaldi's entourage and regularly accompanied him on his many travels. There was speculation about the nature of Vivaldi's and Giro's relationship, but no evidence to indicate anything beyond friendship and professional collaboration.


It is speculated that the inspiration for Vivaldi's Four Seasons (four violin concertos depicting scenes appropriate for each season) was probably the countryside around Mantua. At the hight of his career, Vivaldi still traveled and toured in Vienna and Prague (1730) where, accompanied by his father, he presented his opera Farnace (RV 711). Like many composers of the time, the final years of Vivaldi's life found him in financial difficulties. Aged 63, he died during the night of 27/28 July 1741 of ”internal infection”, in a house owned by the widow of a Viennese saddlemaker and was later buried in a simple grave in a burial ground that was owned by the public hospital fund.


Throughout his life, Vivaldi was considered an ”outside the rules” artist due to his innovative style and methods of expression. Gifted with an exceptional ear for details and harmony (as well a melody), he was one of the first famous conductors, he devoted his entire essence to the continual development of new rhythmic and harmonic combinations and unforeseeable combinations of instruments. Through his instrumental compositions, Antonio Vivaldi exercised a strong influence in the afterwards development of the concert, in the Viennese classicism through its top composers: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Vivaldi's conquests in the instrumental creation area didn't just have an impact on the genres of that time but also on baroque music as a whole, so much that we can say that his spirit revolutionized and animated the entire musical creativity of the Viennese and European baroque period.


Here  you can find a list of all of Antonio Vivaldi's compositions.