Antonio Vivaldi's music career was mainly spent in the Ospedale Della Pieta. Though no one knows exactly why he would choose to work there repeatedly, Antonio Vivaldi sure did make a difference. Besides, working in the Ospedale Della Pieta, Antonio Vivaldi continued his career as a composer and violinist all around Italy. However, that Vivaldi was meanwhile repeatedly in his native city is shown by the performances of no less than eleven operas in the years 1725 to 1735, four of them in the year 1726 alone. From 1735 on Vivaldi was again active at the Ospedale, and again the administrators tried.
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Antonio Vivaldi, in full Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, (born March 4, 1678, Venice, Republic of Venice [Italy]—died July 28, 1741, Vienna, Austria), Italian composer and violinist who left a decisive mark on the form of the concerto and the style of late Baroque instrumental music.
Vivaldi’s main teacher was probably his father, Giovanni Battista, who in 1685 was admitted as a violinist to the orchestra of the San Marco Basilica in Venice. Antonio, the eldest child, trained for the priesthood and was ordained in 1703. His distinctive reddish hair would later earn him the soubriquetIl Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”). He made his first known public appearance playing alongside his father in the basilica as a “supernumerary” violinist in 1696. He became an excellent violinist, and in 1703 he was appointed violin master at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for foundlings. The Pietà specialized in the musical training of its female wards, and those with musical aptitude were assigned to its excellent choir and orchestra, whose much-praised performances assisted the institution’s quest for donations and legacies. Vivaldi had dealings with the Pietà for most of his career: as violin master (1703–09; 1711–15), director of instrumental music (1716–17; 1735–38), and paid external supplier of compositions (1723–29; 1739–40).
Soon after his ordination as a priest, Vivaldi gave up celebrating mass because of a chronic ailment that is believed to have been bronchial asthma. Despite this circumstance, he took his status as a secular priest seriously and even earned the reputation of a religious bigot.
Vivaldi’s earliest musical compositions date from his first years at the Pietà. Printed collections of his trio sonatas and violin sonatas respectively appeared in 1705 and 1709, and in 1711 his first and most influential set of concerti for violin and string orchestra (Opus 3, L’estro armonico) was published by the Amsterdam music-publishing firm of Estienne Roger. In the years up to 1719, Roger published three more collections of his concerti (opuses 4, 6, and 7) and one collection of sonatas (Opus 5).
Vivaldi made his debut as a composer of sacred vocal music in 1713, when the Pietà’s choirmaster left his post and the institution had to turn to Vivaldi and other composers for new compositions. He achieved great success with his sacred vocal music, for which he later received commissions from other institutions. Another new field of endeavour for him opened in 1713 when his first opera, Ottone in villa, was produced in Vicenza. Returning to Venice, Vivaldi immediately plunged into operatic activity in the twin roles of composer and impresario. From 1718 to 1720 he worked in Mantua as director of secular music for that city’s governor, Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt. This was the only full-time post Vivaldi ever held; he seems to have preferred life as a freelance composer for the flexibility and entrepreneurial opportunities it offered. Vivaldi’s major compositions in Mantua were operas, though he also composed cantatas and instrumental works.
The 1720s were the zenith of Vivaldi’s career. Based once more in Venice, but frequently traveling elsewhere, he supplied instrumental music to patrons and customers throughout Europe. Between 1725 and 1729 he entrusted five new collections of concerti (opuses 8–12) to Roger’s publisher successor, Michel-Charles Le Cène. After 1729 Vivaldi stopped publishing his works, finding it more profitable to sell them in manuscript to individual purchasers. During this decade he also received numerous commissions for operas and resumed his activity as an impresario in Venice and other Italian cities.
In 1726 the contralto Anna Girò sang for the first time in a Vivaldi opera. Born in Mantua about 1711, she had gone to Venice to further her career as a singer. Her voice was not strong, but she was attractive and acted well. She became part of Vivaldi’s entourage and the indispensable prima donna of his subsequent operas, causing gossip to circulate that she was Vivaldi’s mistress. After Vivaldi’s death she continued to perform successfully in opera until quitting the stage in 1748 to marry a nobleman.
In the 1730s Vivaldi’s career gradually declined. The French traveler Charles de Brosses reported in 1739 with regret that his music was no longer fashionable. Vivaldi’s impresarial forays became increasingly marked by failure. In 1740 he traveled to Vienna, but he fell ill and did not live to attend the production there of his opera L’oracolo in Messenia in 1742. The simplicity of his funeral on July 28, 1741, suggests that he died in considerable poverty.
After Vivaldi’s death, his huge collection of musical manuscripts, consisting mainly of autograph scores of his own works, was bound into 27 large volumes. These were acquired first by the Venetian bibliophile Jacopo Soranzo and later by Count Giacomo Durazzo, Christoph Willibald Gluck’s patron. Rediscovered in the 1920s, these manuscripts today form part of the Foà and Giordano collections of the National Library in Turin.
- March 4, 1678
- July 28, 1741 (aged 63)
- notable works
- movement / style
Top 10 facts about Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi was a 17th and 18th-century musician who’s become one of the most famous figures in European classical music.
He was born on March 4, 1678, in Venice, Italy. Vivaldi must have been destined for greatness by virtue of his ground-shaking birth (Literally), a large earthquake occurred in Venice on his birthday.
Antonio Vivaldi was ordained as a priest at birth although he later chose to follow his passion for music. He became a prolific composer who created hundreds of works, became renowned for his concertos in Baroque style, and was a highly influential innovator in form and pattern.
Some facts about this Italian composer
1. Antonio Vivaldi was mentored by his father
Young Antonio was taught to play the violin by his father, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, a professional violinist who was also a barber. Antonio got to tour Venice with his father while playing the violin together.
Through his father and the tours, Vivaldi met and learned from some of the finest musicians and composers in Venice at the time. While his violin practice flourished, chronic shortness of breath barred him from mastering wind instruments.
2. Antonio Vivaldi went to the monastery
At the age of 15, Antonio began studying to become a priest. He also took music lessons. He was ordained in 1703.
Due to his red hair, Vivaldi was known by the locals as “il Prete Rosso,” or “the Red Priest.” His career in the clergy was short-lived due to health problems that prevented him from delivering mass and drove him to abandon the priesthood shortly after his ordination.
3. Antonio Vivaldi the Maestro di violin
After leaving the priesthood, Vivaldi went to Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage in Venice where he became the master of the violin.
He was regarded as an exceptional technical violinist as well as a famous composer. He began his career at the orphanage aged 25 and stayed for over three decades composing most of his major work.
The orphanages provided shelter and education to children who were abandoned, orphaned or came from poor families.
Gloria Vivaldi Ospedale
Vivaldi taught and mentored the children who began to gain appreciation and praises abroad.
4. Vivaldi had a strained relationship with his workmates
Despite his amazing work and excellent teaching skills that saw most of the children master their musical skills and even joining the Ospedale’s renowned orchestra and choir, his relationship with the board of directors of the Ospedale was often on the rocks.
The board would vote every year to decide whether to keep him as a teacher. They unanimously voted him out once, and only later realized the importance of his role after a year. The recalled him back.
During that time, Vivaldi practised as a freelance musician. He later became responsible for the entire musical activity o the institution when he was called back.
5. Vivaldi took on other jobs other than teaching
In addition to his regular employment, Vivaldi accepted a number of short-term positions funded by patrons in Mantua and Rome.
It was during his term in Mantua, from around 1717 to 1721, that he wrote his four-part masterpiece, The Four Seasons. He paired the pieces with four sonnets, which he may have written himself.
Gloria Vivaldi Ospedale
6. Antonio Vivaldi’s secret love life
Vivaldi took up a job offer as a Maestro di Cappella by prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt in Mantua. He produced several operas in the three years he was there.
It was during this time that he was introduced to Anna Tessieri Giro, who became his student and protégée. She later moved in with him and would accompany him on his many travels.
Speculations flew around whether the two were involved in a romantic relationship beyond their friendship.
Vivaldi was quick to deny the speculations in a letter he wrote to his patron Bentivogilo on November 16, 1737.
7. Vivaldi had tough Financial Times
Although he seemed to be a successful and famous musician, he faced financial difficulties like most of his fellow composers at the time.
In his later years, Vivaldi’s compositions were no longer held in high regard as they once were in Venice. This could be as a result of his changing musical tastes that outmoded.
To get himself out of the financial murk, Vivaldi opted to sell a huge number of his manuscripts at low prices to finance his move to Vienna.
8. Vivaldi spent time in Vienna
There is no clear reason as to why he moved to Vienna, but it is believed that after meeting with Emperor Charles VI, he aspired to take up a position as a composer in the imperial court.
Vivaldi also staged operas while in Vienna when he lived near Karntnertor theater.
His new life and career were cut short after Charles VI died, leaving him without royal protection and no steady source of income. Antonio Vivaldi sunk back into bankruptcy.
9. Vivaldi died poor
Photo by Wendy Scofield on Unsplash
Antonio Vivaldi died a pauper despite his fame. He died on July 28, 1741, aged 63 of an internal infection.
No music was played at his funeral, only the bells at St. Stephen’s Cathedral chimed to note his passing. He was buried in a simple grave in a public hospital cemetery.
A memorial plaque has been placed on the site that was once his home, which has since been destroyed.
10. Antonio Vivaldi’s life documented
His life has been featured in a 2005 movie, Vivaldi, A Prince of Venice. A radio play was also done for ABC Radio that same year.
The play was later adapted to a stage play titled The Angel and the Red Priest.
Vivaldi’s genius skills and music continue to influence many musicians centuries later. His complete music catalogue was found in 1926 at a boarding school in Piedmont. The music of Vivaldi has been performed widely since World War II. The choral composition Gloria, re-introduced to the public at Casella’s Vivaldi Week, is particularly famous and is performed regularly at Christmas celebrations worldwide. His work includes nearly 500 concertos that have influenced subsequent composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach.