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The Life of Antonio Vivaldi
Connor Squire
Music 1010
Wednesdays Class
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born in the city of Venice, Italy on March 4th, 1678,
in the Baroque period. His parent’s names were Giovanni Battista and Camilla
Calicchio and he was the oldest of eight brothers and sisters. It was Vivaldi’s father
who taught him to play the violin and he had his first performance in 1696. Vivaldi
became an expert at the violin and was not able to play wind instruments due to
shortness of breath, also known as asthma. In 1703 Vivaldi was ordained a priest,
but due to a nervous disorder, he quit celebrating mass within a year. It has been
said that he often left the altar to go write down a musical idea. The Four Seasons
and the Opus 3 are some of Vivaldi’s most famous concertos, but he was also known
for writing many simple music exercises for students.
Most of Vivaldi’s life he was employed to work as a violin teacher in an
Ospedali, also known as an orphanage that specialized in music. There were four of
these orphanages and they were not ordinary orphanages. They were a girl’s only
orphanages and the girls were often daughters of noble men whom had the child
with his mistress. These girls were well taken care of and the orphanage contained
the highest musical standards in Venice. Vivaldi was employed to work for Ospedale
della Pieta Ospedali, which was known as the best of all four of the Ospedali’s.
Vivaldi also worked for the opera theatre called Teatro Sant’ Angelo. It was for this
theatre company that he published his first opera in 1713 known as Ottone in Villa.
In 1720 Vivaldi moved back to Venice after a two-year job in Mantua as
Chamber Capellmeister in the Landgrave Philips van Hessen-Darmstadt court where
he provided operas, cantatas, and possibly concert music. Once Vivaldi moved back
to Venice, he met a singer who was named Anna Giraud and they eventually lived
together. Vivaldi never married her and only claimed that she was a housekeeper
and a good friend, although he was with her until he died.
Vivaldi eventually moved to Rome, but did however remain in employment
for the Ospedale della Pieta and director of the Teatro Sant’ Angelo, on addition to
working on commission for foreign rulers and kings. Vivaldi wrote the serenade La
Sena fasteggiante for the French king Louis XV for example. In the years 1725-1728
Vivaldi wrote many concertos and it was through these concertos that he changed
the tradition of descriptive music into an Italian music style where the strings took
on a large role. These newly invented concertos were a major success, especially in
France. The number of concertos that were acclaimed to Vivaldi in his life was
around 500.
It was in the year 1740 that Vivaldi resigned from the Ospedale, in which he
planned to move to Vienna to be under the patronage of Charles VI, whom he had
deep respect for. However it did not last long, for on July 28th of 1741 Vivaldi died,
living in poverty. He died “of internal fire”, most likely the disease which he battled
his whole life, known as asthmatic bronchitis. Throughout his life Vivaldi wrote
many concertos and operas, and then much church and chamber music as well.
Out of Vivaldi’s 500 some concertos the most famous off all of them and
prominent of the baroque period was Four Seasons. Four Seasons has the form of
fast-slow-fast movements. This concerto is still being played today in various
different forms of entertainment from weddings to movies. Some movies in which
Four Seasons has appeared in are White Chicks, Spy Game, Tin Cup, Pacific Heights,
and The Other Sister. To go along with and accompany the each movement of the
Four Seasons concerto, Vivaldi wrote individual sonnets.
It is said that Vivaldi was one of the Baroque composers that prepared the
way for Classical music by evolving Baroque into Galante style of music. Vivaldi was
able to influence a great number of famous composers and musicians, such as
Johann Sebastian Bach who translated a large number of Vivaldi’s concertos for the
keyboard and for orchestra. Nevertheless there were those musicians who did not
appreciate the work of Vivaldi. Igor Stravinsky was one of those who stated that
Vivaldi had not written hundreds of concertos but one concerto hundreds of time.
Furthermore, Vivaldi was also suspect to reusing music from old Venetian operas
but just barely changing them so that Anna Giraud could sing them. This frustrated
many different musicians and there was even a pamphlet written against him by
Benedetto Marcello.
Antonio Vivaldi did not ride out into the sunset as some may have thought or
been led to believe. The taste of music changed and Vivaldi’s once glamorous pieces
of music that had brought him such high praise and fame in Venice became outdated
and the interest was lost. He eventually grew into poverty and when he decided that
he wanted to leave Venice and go to Vienna to meet and become a patron under the
well-respected Charles VI, he had to sell a large amount of his manuscripts at low
and cheap prices to fund the trip. Sadly once Vivaldi arrived in Vienna, Charles VI
died from eating poisonous mushrooms and therefore leaving Vivaldi without the
luxury of protection from the royalty and without a source of money. In order to
survive after the death of Charles VI, Vivaldi had to sell off more of his manuscripts
until he passed away in 1741. In addition to Vivaldi dying while he was in a povertystricken life, he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. Vivaldi a once
glamorous and fame-filled musician, composer, and writer and been forgotten.
Furthermore, it was until the 20th century that Vivaldi became remembered. Two
memorial plaques have been made and placed for him where his burial is and where
his old home was in Vienna along with the Vivaldi “star” in the Viennese Musikmeile.
In addition, a monument was created for him at the Rooseveltsplatz. As Vivaldi’s
music popularity returned in the 20th century so did a new interpretation of his
music that consists that reflects his state of mind as an energetic, confident, and
fiery musician, composer, and writer.
Works Cited
"Antonio Vivaldi: A Detailed Informative Biography." Antonio
Vivaldi: A Detailed Informative Biography. Arton Publication, n.d. Web. 25 Sept.
2013. <http://www.baroquemusic.org/bqxvivaldi.html>.
"Antonio Vivaldi." Naxos.com. Naxos, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.
<http://www.naxos.com/person/Antonio_Vivaldi/22387.htm>.
"Bibliography Antonio Vivaldi." Www.last.fm. Last.fm, 15 Jan.
2011. Web. 26 Sept. 2013. <http://www.last.fm/music/Antonio+Vivaldi/+wiki>.
Green, Aaron. "Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons: Notes, Historical
Information, and Sonnets." About.com Classical Music. About.com, 2013. Web.
25 Sept. 2013.
<http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/baroqueperiod/ss/fourseasons.htm>.