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Classical Composers A-Z: Antonio Vivaldi

Peter Wintersgill summarises the life of Antonio Vivaldi, who composed more than 400 concertos.

Born
4th March, 1678, in Venice.

Father
Violinist at St. Mark's church.

Childhood
Was taught the violin by his father, joined him in the St. Mark's orchestra.

Early Adult Life
Ordained priest in 1703, but never functioned as one because of a chest complaint. Known as the "Red Priest" from the colour of his hair.

Was appointed music teacher to the Ospedale della Pieta, a boarding school for orphan girls, in effect a musical academy.

He wrote a lot of chamber music, including a trio sonata in 1705 and a violin sonata in 1709. However the largest part of his output consisted of concertos, of which he wrote some 400 during a working life of 40 years, most of them for the school. There were 48 for the bassoon, 25 for the cello, six for the flute (see later), the rest for other instruments, either singly or in combination.

His four most famous are the Four Seasons (1725), which are still popular today. He spent three years in the service of the Margrave of Hesse-Darmstadt in Mantua, around 1720.

JS Bach thought highly of his works, who copied or transcribed many of them. He adapted the one for four violins for four harpsichords.

Later Adult Life
In the 1720's Vivaldi travelled a lot and played before the Emperor and the Pope.

He also wrote over 40 operas, the first being Ottone in Villa (1713), another Orlando Furioso (1727) and his last Tunerkulo (1735).

He also wrote a few sacred works notably the ever popular Gloria also a Stabat Mater and a Magnificat. On one occasion he travelled as far as Amsterdam, where his music was more popular than in his native Italy.

He was allowed these absences on condition that he continued producing new works, and sending them to the Ospedale.

He travelled to Vienna and died there on 28th July, 1741, aged 63.

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