Born: Mar 4, 1678; Italy
Died: Jul 28, 1741; Austria
The creator of hundreds of spirited, extroverted instrumental works, Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi is widely recognized as the master of the Baroque instrumental concerto, which he perfected and popularized more than any of his contemporaries. Vivaldi's kinetic rhythms, fluid melodies, bright instrumental effects, and extensions of instrumental technique make his some of the most enjoyable of Baroque music. He was highly influential among hisRead more contemporaries and successors: even as esteemed a figure as Johann Sebastian Bach adapted some of Vivaldi's music. Vivaldi's variable textures and dramatic effects initiated the shift toward what became the Classical style; a deeper understanding of his music begins with the realization that, compared with Bach and even Handel, he was Baroque music's arch progressive. Though not as familiar as his concerti, Vivaldi's stage and choral music is still of value; his sometimes bouncy, sometimes lyrical Gloria in D major (1708) has remained a perennial favorite. His operas were widely performed in his own time.
Details regarding Vivaldi's early life are few. His father was a violinist in the Catherdral of Venice's orchestra and probably Antonio's first teacher. There is much speculation about other teachers, such as Corelli, but no evidence to support this. Vivaldi studied for the priesthood as a young man and was ordained in 1703. He was known for much of his career as "il prete rosso" (the red-haired priest), but soon after his ordination he declined to take on his ecclesiastical duties. Later in life he cited ill health as the reason, but other motivations have been proposed; perhaps Vivaldi simply wanted to explore new opportunties as a composer. It didn't take him long. Landing a job as a violin teacher at a girls' orphanage in Venice (where he would work in one capacity or another during several stretches of his life), he published a set of trio sonatas and another of violin sonatas. Word of his abilities spread around Europe, and in 1711 an Amsterdam publisher brought out, under the title L'estro armonico (Harmonic Inspiration), a set of Vivaldi's concertos for one or more violins with orchestra. These were best sellers (it was this group of concertos that spurred Bach's transcriptions), and Vivaldi followed them up with several more equally successful concerto sets. Perhaps the most prolific of all the great European composers, he once boasted that he could compose a concerto faster than a copyist could ready the individual parts for the players in the orchestra. He began to compose operas, worked from 1718 to 1720 in the court of the German principality of Hessen-Darmstadt, and traveled in Austria and perhaps Bohemia. Throughout his career, he had his choice of commissions from nobility and the highest members of society, the ability to use the best performers, and enough business savvy to try to control the publication of his works, although due to his popularity, many were published without his consent. Later in life Vivaldi was plagued by rumors of a sexual liaison with one of his vocal students, and he was censured by ecclesiastical authorities. His Italian career on the rocks, he headed for Vienna. He died there and was buried as a pauper in 1741, although at the height of his career his publications had earned a comfortable living. Read less
Work: Concerto for Strings in G major, RV 151 "Alla rustica"
Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings and Continuo in G, R.151 Concerto alla Rustica - 1. Presto
Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings and Continuo in G, R.151 Concerto alla Rustica - 2. Adagio
Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings and Continuo in G, R.151 Concerto alla Rustica - 3. Allegro
About This Work
Antonio Vivaldi's concerti without soloists are generally included among the antecedents of the Classical-period symphony. Probably written for highly skilled professional orchestras, these works, mostly written in a contrapuntal style, show what theRead more
orchestra can do when it is not in any way subordinated to a soloist. All of these features manifest themselves in the Concerto alla rustica for strings in G major, RV 151. Despite the idea of provincialism implied in the title, this work is a brilliant, sophisticated example of late-Baroque style. The first movement Presto is a virtuoso showpiece for Baroque orchestra, with a bouncy melody that never stops moving. However, the high spirits are quickly and dramatically countered by an unexpected juxtaposition of the same material in a fierce minor, which ends the movement. Ornamental runs from a solo violin decorate the simple melody of the brief Adagio that follows, while the final movement, in dance rhythm, has a busy cello line to support its graceful violin melody. In this exciting work, Vivaldi packs much musical content into a brief time interval.
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