Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)
: March 4, 1678, Venice
: July 28, 1741, Vienna
Antonio Vivaldi, nicknamed "The Red Priest" because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, Catholic priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas. His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.
Many of his compositions were written for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi had been employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi was contracted to supply two concertos per month to the Pietà hospital. He wrote at least 140 and published some of them. The Op. 8, Il cimento dell’ armonia e dell’ inventione (The contest between harmony and invention, 1725), contains his famous Four Seasons.
Vivaldi spent most of the 1730s producing his operas in various cities. Vivaldi also had some success with stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI, Vivaldi moved to Vienna, hoping for preferment. The Emperor died soon after Vivaldi's arrival.
At the time of Vivaldi's death, his fortunes had reached a low ebb. He died in Vienna, too sick and too poor to return to Venice.
Though Vivaldi's music was well received during his lifetime, it later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first half of the 20th century. Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most popular and widely recorded of Baroque composers.