Antonio Vivaldi

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Essential Albums

  • Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

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About Antonio Vivaldi

A man for all seasons, Vivaldi was a violinist, composer, priest, and shrewd businessman. Born in 1678 and based in Venice, he composed in every major form and was celebrated by his contemporaries as a virtuoso performer with a talent for spellbinding improvisation. His concerto style is more about solo display than team play, with unpredictable, sometimes wildly inventive solos held in check by regular orchestral passages (ritornellos) that map out the melodic and harmonic landscape. Using this ritornello form, Vivaldi laid the foundations of the solo concerto in collections like L’estro armonico Op. 3 (1711), which influenced a generation—including Bach. Vivaldi also had a taste for colorful orchestration and a love of the natural world, conjuring up cuckoos, storms, and, most famously, the Four Seasons (Op. 8, 1725). Vivaldi’s ambitious church music—like the large-scale Gloria RV 589 for soloists, choir, and orchestra—was mostly written for services and sacred concerts given by the gifted young musicians of the Pietà, the famous orphanage for girls in Venice where Vivaldi taught. Interest in Vivaldi’s concertos and church music has long overshadowed his theatrical work, where recent research suggests he was one of the most prolific opera composers and impresarios of the late Baroque: Between 1713 and his death in 1741, he was involved in around 70 productions, including the magic-themed Orlando furioso RV 728 (1727), featuring one of opera’s first great mad scenes.

Venice, Italy
March 4, 1678

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