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Antonio Vivaldi (Composer)

Vivaldi, Antonio (b Venice, 1678; d Vienna, 1741). It. composer and violinist. Son of violinist in orch. of St Mark‘s, Venice, under Legrenzi. Taught by father. Entered church, becoming priest 1703, though after 2 years never said Mass because of congenital chest complaint. Taught vn. at orphanage (Ospedale della Pietа) from 1703 and gave recitals. Pubd. trio sonatas, Op.1, 1705 and vn. sonatas, Op.2, 1709. First opera, Ottone in villa, prod. Vicenza 1713; first Venetian opera, Orlando finto pazzo, 1714. Was also operatic impresario in Venice and cond. and played vn. in opera perfs. Spent 3 years in service of Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt in Mantua, probably 1719-21. Between 1722 and 1725, wrote operas for Mantua, Vicenza, Milan, and Rome. His famous Op.8, incl. Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons), was pubd. 1725. By this time, Vivaldi was known and admired throughout Europe. In 1734 first collaborated with librettist Goldoni (1709-93). In 1737 prod. of a new Vivaldi opera at Ferrara was forbidden by papal authorities on ground that Vivaldi was a priest who did not say Mass and had a relationship with a woman singer. In 1738, visited Amsterdam, where his mus. had been pubd. since 1711, for royal th. centenary celebrations—his reputation stood higher in Fr., Holland, and Eng. in his lifetime than it did in Venice. Despite intermittent disputes over the years, Vivaldi was still maestro at the Pietа and was still writing cantatas for perf. there in 1740. In 1741 he decided to leave Venice for Vienna, presumably in search of some court appointment, but died there, being buried in a pauper‘s grave.

Among contemporaries who appreciated Vivaldi was J. S. Bach, who transcr. 10 Vivaldi concs. as hpd. or org. concs. Like Bach‘s, Vivaldi‘s mus. fell out of favour for many years, but the 20th cent., in particular since the revival of interest in authentic methods of performing baroque mus., has seen it re-est. Once regarded merely as the composer of works for str., his genius as an opera composer is now recognized (he said he wrote 94, but fewer than 50 are extant) as well as the Venetian splendour of his church mus. No composer did more to establish the vc. as a solo instr., and he displayed a keen interest in the use of unusual instr.: it is the infinite variety and invention of his work that has made it so beloved 300 years after his birth. There have been several catalogues of his work, the most recent (Leipzig 1974) by Peter Ryom (works are numbered with the prefix RV = Ryom-Verzeichnis). Prin. works:

OPERAS: Bajazet (Tamerlano) (1735); Catone in Utica (1737); Dorilla in Tempe (1726); Ercole sul Termodonte (1723); Farnace (1727); La fida ninfa (1732); Il Giustino (1724); Griselda (1735); L‘incoronazione di Dario (1716); L‘Olimpiade (1734); Orlando finto pazzo (1714); Orlando furioso (1727); Ottone in villa (1713); Rosilena ed Oronta (1728); Rosmira (1738); Il Teuzzone (1719); Tito Manlio (1719); La veritа in cimento (1720).

PUBLISHED WORKS IN HIS LIFETIME: Op.1, 12 sonatas for 2 vn. and basso continuo (1705); Op.2, 12 sonatas for vn. and basso continuo (1709); Op.3, L‘estro armonico (Harmonic inspiration), 12 concs. for various combinations (4 vn., 4 vn. and vc., etc.) (1711); Op.4, La stravaganza (The extraordinary), 12 vn. concs. (c.1714); Op.5 (2nd part of Op.2), 4 sonatas for vn. and 2 sonatas for 2 vn. and basso continuo (1716); Op.6, 6 vn. concs. (1716-21); Op.7, 2 ob. concs. and 10 vn. concs. (1716-21); Op.8, Il cimento dell’ armonia e dell’ inventione (The Contest between Harmony and Invention), 12 vn. concs., the first 4, in E, G minor, F, and F minor being known as The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni) (1725); Op.9, La cetra (The lyre), 11 vn. concs. and 1 for 2 vn. (1727); Op.10, 6 fl. concs. (c.1728); Op.11, 5 vn. concs., 1 ob. conc. (1729); Op.12, 5 vn. concs. and 1 without solo (1729); Op.13, Il pastor fido (The Faithful Shepherd), 6 sonatas for musette, viella, recorder, ob. or vn., and basso continuo (1737, doubtful authenticity).

The rest of Vivaldi‘s instr. output is so vast that it can only be summarized:

10 sonatas, vc., basso continuo; 28 sonatas, vn., basso continuo; 4 sonatas, fl., basso continuo; sonatas, 2 vn., basso continuo; concs. for various instr. (fl., ob., recorders, vns., bn., etc.) and basso continuo; over 60 concs., sinfonias, and sonatas for str. and basso continuo; 170 concs. and sinfonias for vn., orch., and basso continuo; 7 concs. for viola d‘amore; 28 vc. concs.; mandolin conc.; 9 fl. concs.; 2 recorder concs.; 14 ob. concs.; over 40 bn. concs.; many concs. for 2 vn., 2 vc., 2 mandolins, 2 ob., 2 hn., 2 tpt., etc.

SACRED MUSIC: Mass; Kyrie for double ch.; 3 Glorias; 2 Dixit Dominus; 3 Laudate pueri; 2 Magnificat; 3 Salve Regina; Stabat Mater; Juditha triumphans (oratorio, Venice 1716); also many secular cantatas, etc.

Pinchas Zukerman, IPO/Zubin Mehta - "Summer", Vivaldi
About This Video
Antonio Vivaldi, Violin Concerto in G Minor Op.8 No.2, RV 315
The Huberman Festival, 1983

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