Antonio Vivaldi (1687-1741).

Antonio Vivaldi is one of the 18th century composers with a more varied and prolific legacy. Vivaldi was born in 1687 in Venice, and his father was a violin player in S.Mark's Cathedral, and with him he learned to play the violin. In 1703 he was ordained a priest, but he actually never preformed his religious functions properly and seriously, keeping even love affaires, and for that he was nicknamed "il prete mentitor" (the liar priest) and "it prete rosso" (Vivaldi was red-haired)

His work is vast, and Vivaldi's first work to be published was, in 1705, the "12 Sonatas for two violins and Basso Continuo"". Among these sonatas we find on of the most splendid "Follia"s ever to be written.. After this first "opus", an enormous amount of instrumental works would follow, and the sheer amount of concertos, symphonies, sonatas composed, and speed at which they appeared is overwhelming: unavoidably, a part is simply not of great interest, as self-repetition became a frequent resourse of composition. By then, he occupied the place of chapel master in the "Ospedalle della Pietá", an female orphanage where he was a teacher and where he presented cantatas, religious services and concertos, and his music brought to the institution's religious services a multitude of music lovers. 

Vivaldi composed an extremely efficient and inventive music, and indeed his instrumental works are very refreshing when at their best, like the flute concertos or the "Quatro Staggione", from his "Opus 8". Other than that, his music tends to be repetitive, and sometimes boring. The scheme used in his instrumental works is the typical movement sequence fast-slow-fast, usually allegro-adagio-allegro, scheme that remained until the late 18th century, when a "rondo"  or a "presto"  were added after the second "allegro". Either than that, when in their best, his instrumental works are very original, though his counterpoint is not particularly remarkable, except fore some rare exceptions. These works were the ones that granted Vivaldi his fame and success in Europe, especially in Amsterdam where his works were regularly published.

In Italy, however, his success was due to his operatic works. His first opera was "Ottone in villa", premiered in 1713 in Vicenza. In the meantime, he composed about 50 operas, though Vivaldi stated to have composed 94 operas(!), ins which his serenades are not included. The last entry in Vivaldi's opera catalogue is Feraspe, from 1739. It should me mentioned that many of Vilaldi's operas are "pasticci" of previous or loose works, and therefore there are not that many entirely original operas left.

Yet, in its sort, his operas are incomparable. The arias are true voice concertos, and the recitatives rich and expressive, with very efficient scenic modulation. Among his operatic works, "Orlando Furioso", "Catone in Utica" and "Il Farnace" are prime examples of Vivaldi's art. 

Vivaldi travelled through many italian cities, composing for communal theatres, being always admired. Among some illustrious of his admirers, we find Johan Sebastian Bach, who adapted many of his concertos from Vivaldi, and Louis the 15th commissioned him one of his Magnificat.

Maybe taken for his success, Vivaldi travelled in 1741 to Viena, perhaps to apply for a post in the imperial court, but he didn't make it, and there he died in that same year, in misery.

 

Antonio Vivaldi: I Quatro Stagioni (Inverno)

Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto con molti strumenti

Antonio Vivaldi: Stabat Mater

                                            

A caricature of Vivaldi                                           One of the composer's many portraits                      The "Ospedale della Pietá"

  

The autograph of Concerto RV 120                                              The autograph of the opera Giustino            

                                                         

The first edition of Juditha Triumphans                          Musicians of the "Ospedale della Pietá."

 

 

Reccomended recordings:

Operas:

"Orlando Furioso": Horne, Los Angeles, Valentini-Terrani, Gonzales, Kosma, Buscantini, Zaccaria, I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone.

"Farnace" : Le Concert de Natoins, Savall, AliaVox.

"Catone in Utica": Gasdia, Zimmermann, Placio, Lendi, Rigacci, Schimiege, I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone.

"Serenata a tre": Mazzucato, Browne, Placio, I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone.

Sacred music:

"Glória RV 589": Argenta, Smith, Rogers, The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock.

Concertos:

"Le quatro Stagioni ( in: op. 8)":  Standage, The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock.

"Flute concertos, Op.10": Beznosiuk, The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock.

Other concertos: "Alla Rustica": The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock.

 

Back.