Antonio Vivaldi was a late Baroque composer who was born in 1678. His health was poor as a newborn, so he was baptized right away to ensure his place in heaven if he died. He would be plagued health issues for the majority of his life, which was actually quite long at the time. He lived until 1741, dying just a few months after turning 61.
Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, Antonio’s father, was a barber who later became a violinist. He taught his son to play the violin at a young age, and the younger Vivaldi’s later compositions reflect his passion for stringed instruments. In Venice, both father and son toured together, but Antonio began his studies for the priesthood when he was 15 years old.
Vivaldi suffered from a condition that many believe was asthma, because it was described as a “tightening of the chest.” Despite being ordained a priest in 1703, the composer was granted a dispensation to leave the priesthood in 1706. His next position was as a violin instructor at a Venice orphanage. He composed a number of musical pieces for the girls, and they toured Venice, receiving a lot of positive feedback.
Many violin solos the composer are considered approachable for junior violinists because of his position as a teacher. Even though they require skill, those who have studied the violin for five or six years can usually perform them well. Vivaldi compositions are frequently chosen younger performers as solo or audition material.
Due to his inability to pay Vivaldi, his employment with the orphanage was on-and-off. Historians know, however, that between 1723 and 1729, he composed over 100 concertos specifically for the school. He composed over 500 concertos during his lifetime, the majority of which were for violinists. He also composed over 40 operas, many of which are rarely performed, as well as secular and sacred hymns and songs.
Vivaldi’s music was created with the intention of being enjoyed everyone, not just the upper crust. It’s reasonable to assume that his early experiences as a traveling musician with a lower-class father influenced his compositional choices. His music is bright, upbeat, and complex.
As he grew older, Vivaldi’s popularity waned, and he was frequently chastised contemporary composers for his work’s repetitive themes. Vivaldi sold many of his works toward the end of his life in order to relocate to Vienna, where he believed his work would be better received. His work, however, was unappreciated in Vienna, and he died impoverished and alone. Vivaldi’s music was rarely performed until the twentieth century, when a renewed interest in him arose.
At the time, music historians realized that Vivaldi was one of the great transitional artists, and that much of his work foreshadowed the Classical period, which would profoundly alter music in the 1750s. The Four Seasons, a four-concerto work Vivaldi, is today’s most popular work, and many consider it to be an exceptional work. The featured violin parts of Seasons, like many of his contemporaries, are representative of the greatness of this composer, who, like many of his contemporaries, did not receive the recognition he deserved during his lifetime.