Learn 9 Facts About Baroque Music Composer Antonio Vivaldi

Presumed portrait of Vivaldi by an unknown artist, 1723 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

At the same time as Baroque artists were creating elaborate paintings and sculptures, other creators of this period sought to inspire admiration through their music. One of the most renowned Baroque composers of this era was Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741).

Hailing from Venice, the Italian musician was renowned for his mastery of the violin, which led to many recognizable compositions; the most famous was his iconic series of violin concertos titled “The Four Seasons”. And while Vivaldi was well known during his lifetime – creating music for princes and kings – he was almost forgotten after his death until his work was rediscovered during the 20th century.

Scroll down to discover nine facts about classical composer Vivaldi.

Discover nine lesser-known facts about Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi.

He came from a family of musicians.

Vivaldi learned to play the violin from his father Giovanni Battista, a founding member of the Sovvegno dei musicisti di Santa Cecilia. They even toured Venice together, playing violin duets.

He suffered from a lifelong illness.

Throughout Vivaldi’s life, he faced an unknown medical condition; he described one of his symptoms as chest tightness. Modern historians have interpreted this description as a form of asthma. However, while his illness discouraged him from playing wind instruments, it did not interfere with his passion for the violin or composition.

Church of San Giovanni in Bragora

Church of San Giovanni in Bragora in Venice (Photo: Didier Descouens via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

He was an ordained priest.

Vivaldi was ordained a priest in 1703 at the age of 25. Only a year later, his fragile health prevented him from administering mass. He thus finds more time to work on his compositions and practice the violin.

He taught violin in an orphanage.

In the same year Vivaldi was ordained a priest, he became a violin master at an orphanage in Venice called the Ospedale della Pietà, an establishment that housed abandoned children and taught them music and a craft. He worked here for around 30 years while creating his most famous compositions. His abilities as an instructor increased the prestige of the orphanage’s orchestra and choir.

“The Four Seasons” was revolutionary.

Vivaldi composed “The Four Seasons” between 1718 and 1720 while he was choirmaster at the court of Mantua. His most famous and beloved series of compositions, “The Four Seasons”, was unlike any other musical score at the time. He depicts each season and the sounds associated with it (flowing streams, birdsong, winter fires, ice skating, etc.) through music.

Additionally, these concertos were each published with their own sonnet, which may also have been written by Vivaldi.

Facts about Antonio Vivaldi

Plaque commemorating Antonio Vivaldi in front of the Ospedale della Pietà (Photo: Giovanni Dall’Orto via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5 IT)

It was commissioned by European nobility.

Vivaldi achieved significant success during his life, earning commissions from various European nobility. Among its patrons are the King of France and the Holy Roman Emperor.

He even received a knighthood from Emperor Charles VI of the Holy Roman Empire and was invited to work at the imperial court.

Portrait of Vivaldi

François Morellon de La Cave, Engraving by Antonio Vivaldi, 1725 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Bach was a fan of Vivaldi’s music.

The German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), who was about 10 years younger and part of the late Baroque period, was a big fan of Vivaldi’s music and even transcribed some of Vivaldi’s concertos for keyboard, strings , organ and harpsichord.

Vivaldi died penniless.

After King Charles VI offered Vivaldi a position at his court, the Italian composer moved to Vienna. However, soon after his arrival, Charles VI died and Vivaldi was left without a source of income. As a result, he died at the age of 63 from an infection with no money in his name. Even his compositions were forgotten for decades after his death.

Johann Sebastian Bach Portrait

Elias Gottlob Haussmann, “Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach”, 1748 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

His work was revived in the 20th century.

Centuries after Vivaldi’s death, his music was rediscovered after being fully cataloged in 1926 by historian Dr Alberto Gentil of the University of Turin. Throughout the 20th century, musicians revived Vivaldi’s work, slowly increasing the reputation of his range of compositions, which include concertos, operas and choral music.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Vivaldi best known?

Antonio Vivaldi is best known for his series of violin concertos known as The four Seasons.

Bach and Vivaldi have they ever met?

Although both Bach and Vivaldi were active musicians during the Baroque period, they did not meet in person. Even so, Bach was known to be very sensitive to Vivaldi’s music.

Why was Vivaldi important?

Vivaldi was an important Baroque composer for his innovative compositions, which featured harmonic contrasts and exuberant themes.

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