Antonio Vivaldi

Biography

Born: Mar 4, 1678; Italy   Died: Jul 28, 1741; Austria   Period: Baroque
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 his Read 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
Amor Sacro - Vivaldi: Mottetti / Simone Kermes
Release Date: 02/13/2007   Label: Archiv Produktion (Dg)  
Catalog: 000823702   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: Concerti da Camera / Collegium Pro Musica
Release Date: 09/25/2012   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 94332   Number of Discs: 3
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Vivaldi: Dixit Dominus / Mingardo, Agnew, Kopp
Release Date: 06/13/2006   Label: Archiv Produktion (Dg)  
Catalog: 000649402   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: Opera & Oratorio Arias / Kozena, Marcon, Venice Baroque Orchestra
Release Date: 02/09/2010   Label: Archiv Produktion (Dg)  
Catalog: 001395602   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: Four Seasons; Pachelbel, Bach / Carney, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Release Date: 03/10/2009   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 28090   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Concerto for 2 Mandolins in G major, RV 532

 

About This Work
The exact date of composition for this thoroughly enjoyable concerto is unknown, but it is assumed that Vivaldi wrote it for the students at the Ospedale della Pietà. Given the range of notes used by him for the solo parts, the concerto was Read more probably intended for the mandolino, a six-string, high-pitched instrument tuned in fourths, popular in Venice during Vivaldi's life. The fact that the solo parts contain no chords suggests that the instruments were to be played finger-style, that is with the fingers plucking the strings rather than a plectrum. Given the quiet sound of the mandolin, the concerto is most effective when performed with a chamber orchestra, and it also sounds well performed on guitars. The opening and closing Allegro movements are built with the same ritornello structure, ABACADA, with Vivaldi's usual construction of themes from repeating rhythmic motives. Both are light, crisp, and in a 2/4 meter, giving them an almost quickstep nature. The strings are played détaché throughout these movements, to more closely match the plucking of the mandolins. The solo parts use both echoing and parallel movement in the episodes, with trills and other ornaments thrown in to give them a little more texture. The middle Andante is perhaps the most famous movement of the concerto. It is in D minor, with the two mandolins performing throughout over just violins and violas played pizzicato and in unison. The graceful melody is built mostly of overlapping, echoing phrases with the two coming together only to intensify the emotion at certain points through the harmony of the parts. The opening section is repeated in an ornamented fashion, followed by a contrasting, more developmental section that moves through several keys before returning to home and the same ending as the opening section. Given the appeal of the two pleasant outer movements and the delicacy of the middle movement, it's easy to see why this is one of Vivaldi's most popular concertos.

-- Patsy Morita Read less

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