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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)



Vivaldi/The Man
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born in Venice.  He was baptized immediately after his birth by the midwife, which led many people to believe his life was somehow in danger.  The real reason is still not known for sure, some argue it was due to ill health while others state that an earthquake the same day led his mother to be in constant fear for her son’s life.  As a result, Vivaldi’s mother dedicated him to the Priesthood.

Antonio’s father was a barber and a keen musician, he taught Vivaldi to play the violin and before long the two of them were touring Venice as a duo.  In 1693, at the age of fifteen, Vivaldi officially began studying the priesthood and was ordained at 25.  Before long he got the nickname, il Prete Rosso, ‘The Red Priest’ due to his bright red hair.  All his life Vivaldi suffered from ill health and although he always officially remained a priest, he soon withdrew from performing mass and later all of his priestly duties.  Not long after, Vivaldi became master of violin at an orphanage for girls and while working there for the next thirty years composed cantatas, concertos and sacred vocal music for them.

When his time with the orphanage came to an end, Vivaldi was appointed in the prestigious position of Maestro di Cappella of the court of prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, governor of Mantua, Italy.  Vivaldi moved to Italy and in just a few years produced several operas, among which was Tito Manlio.  On the back of this, he was able to build a strong reputation and his popularity soon spread.

Very little is known of Vivaldi’s love life.  However, when exploring the matter, many texts make reference to his muse Anna Giro.  Anna first sang in one of Vivaldi’s operas in 1726 and was in nearly all his operas afterwards, with the two remaining closely knit until his death in 1741.

Vivaldi/The Music
Vivaldi’s music was completely innovative. He changed the formal and rhythmic structure of the concerto by searching for contrasts and unusual melodies and even influenced composers such as Bach, who went on to transcribe many of Vivaldi’s concerti.  Vivaldi wrote over 500 concertos but to this day his most famous remains The Four Seasons.  Today Vivaldi continues to influence artists, with films, radio plays and even children’s books written about his music and his life.


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