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

Baroque Collection - Handel, Vivaldi, Bach, Pachelbel, Et Al
Release Date: 09/29/1992   Label: Emi Classics  
Catalog: 67425   Number of Discs: 2
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Vivaldi: The Four Seasons / Bosgraaf, Ensemble Cordevento
Release Date: 01/28/2014   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 94637   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: Concerti Per Archi II / Alessandrini, Concerto Italiano
Release Date: 01/28/2014   Label: Naive  
Catalog: 30554   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: The Four Seasons / Anne Akiko Meyers
Release Date: 02/04/2014   Label: eOne  
Catalog: 7790   Number of Discs: 1
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Vivaldi: Recorder Concertos / Laurin, Drottningholm Baroque
Release Date: 12/07/1993   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 635   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Concerto for Mandolin in C major, RV 425

 

About This Work
This work, the only solo mandolin concerto out of the hundreds of concertos Vivaldi composed, was featured in the film Kramer vs. Kramer. It shows that Vivaldi was as capable of instrumentally idiomatic writing in this special case as he was in his Read more more common violin concertos, which often call for unusual techniques and effects. The mandolin part in this concerto is not technically difficult, but it rests attractively beneath the player's fingers, and the work has often been recorded. Vivaldi effectively uses melodic profile to draw a contrast between the strings and the serenading mandolin; the orchestral ritornello of the first movement consists of little more than open octaves and fifths, while the mandolin has sprightly melodic material. In one of those clever touches with which Vivaldi's concertos are replete, however, the two textures are linked together: the ritornello ends with a short cadence in broken thirds, and the soloist begins by repeating the same music, as if a relay runner were receiving the baton from a teammate. The minor-key central movement is a fine example of Vivaldi's minimalist melancholy, and the finale is a deceptively simple Allegro that lets the soloist unpack the rudimentary melodic inversion upon which the ritornello is based. One of the solo passages seems to refer back to the concerto's opening movement -- an instance of cyclical technique that, if intentional, would place Vivaldi well ahead of his time in this as in so many other things. There also exists a Vivaldi concerto for two mandolins, and mandolinists also sometimes appropriate the more numerous Vivaldi pieces for guitar or lute.

-- James Manheim Read less

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