THE PRIDE OF OUR HERITAGE: ANTONIO VIVALDI


On March 4, 1678, in Venice, in the old region of Venetia, Antonio Vivaldi made his dramatic entrance into the world. The grounds literally shook during his birth. On that very same day, one of Venice large earthquakes was well underway. Immediately after his birth, he was given an emergency baptism, perhaps due to concerns relating to the earthquake. With such a thrilling beginning, Antonio was fated for great respectability and recognition and to be remembered well beyond his years. Born gifted with substantial music abilities, Vivaldi, at an early age, became a protege of his Dad, a barber and a professional violinist to the orchestra of the San Marco Basilica in Venice. They often toured Venice together playing their violin. His musical aspirations seemed to change direction when at age15, he began to study for the priesthood. Ten years later he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest. During his time of preparation for the priesthood, he earned the nickname of "Padre Rosso", (The Red Priest), due to his inherited family trait of red hair. Vivaldi's career as a priest only lasted 18 months but he did retain his position as a violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for illegitimate children of Venetian noblemen and courtiers. Throughout his life, he suffered from some form of respiratory disorder, perhaps asthma. He was given a dispensation from celebrating mass because his chronic bronchial ailment prevented him from getting past the Eucharist. This allowed him more time to compose music. He was mostly at home because his condition did not permit much walking and his travel was very expensive in that he needed several assistants to manage the trips due to his health. Vivaldi worked as a teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà from 1703-1715, when he was discharged by the Board of Directors. He was ultimately reinstated in 1723, remained there until 1740, and eventually was promoted to the top position of music director. He was an excellent teacher, he exhibited unique teaching techniques, and he was well liked by his students. But he had a cantankerous relationship with his colleagues and employers. He had managed to gain a reputation of being a prominent artist and had acquired a lot of friends and admirers of the high society. Perhaps this rise to fame contributed to his difficulties at the Pietà Church. During his career, as a teacher of music, he became the most prolific and innovator composer of the Baroque era. His highly virtuoso style and profound sense of spirituality were embedded repeatedly in his work, rendering it bright and cheerful. His vast collection of compositions includes 46 operas, 90 sonatas, about 500 concertos and an additional collection of sonatas, cantatas and chamber music. His contemporaries so appreciated his creativity to the point Johann Sebastian Bach transcribed 10 of his concerts for keyboard and string instruments. Of all his compositions, perhaps his mostly acclaimed work is The Four Seasons ( Le Quattro Stagione). It encompasses a set of four violin concertos, with each concert depicting the sound of nature of a season of the year, beginning with spring. As an artist, he was well connected with the nobility and royalty of his time. In 1725, he wrote the Cantata: Gloria for the celebration of marriage of Louis XV and later he wrote other pieces for the birth of French royal princesses. Additionally, he was knighted by Emperor Charles VI of Vienna. His concerts regularly exhibited the Ritornello form, a recurring repeat of passages, innovated by sixteen century Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli. Vivaldi is regarded as an exceptional violinist and a famous composer. Regardless of his fame, as with most of his contemporaries, he experienced financial difficulties for most of his life. The care of his health was expensive and also the Archbishop of Ferrara, Tommaso Ruffo, derailed his career. Being a Roman Catholic priest, Vivaldi was expected to remain a celibate. However, it was quietly known that he was having a sexual relationship with a contralto traveling companion, Anna Maddalena Tesseire, known as Anna Giraud. After Ruffo's attack, he was not able to regain any of his financial stability. He also became a victim of identity theft. An unsuccessful composer, Nicholas Chedeville, deceitfully sold some of his work as being Vivaldi's compositions. Some of them became famous and Il Pastor Fido became his best known work. But to this day, it is often credited to being Vivaldi's creation. He died in Vienna on July 28, 1741, at age 63 from an internal infection. He had moved to Vienna at the invitation of his benefactor, Charles VI, who died soon after. Without the financial support of the Emperor, he was forced to sell his compositions for his cost of living. As a result most of his music became scattered and somewhat lost. By the 1730s,Vivaldi's career had been gradually eclipsed by the more influential trends of younger musicians and his popularity was waning virtually into a sunset. Fortunately, in the 1930s, his work started to experience a renaissance with pieces of his work being rediscovered. A large collection of his manuscripts, acquired by a music historian, was located in a boarding school and little by little additional compositions have been uncovered. In 1939, composer Alfredo Casella, organized a Vivaldi week music festival to celebrate his achievements. During the festival the composition Gloria, commonly played at churches, was also rediscovered. In addition, n the early 1950s, a section of a London festival featured a substantial collection of his work. This event secured Vivaldi's place in the music history. To further commemorate his contributions, in 2005, A movie titled: A Prince in Venice, depicted his life and his work. It was later adapted as a play titled: The Angel and the Red Priest. Scholars have continued to acknowledge his achievements as being the most influential classical work in history and most recently his opera, Argippo has also been found. As additional pieces of his work continues to come to light, it seems that Vivaldi is experiencing a rebirth. His genius and music continue to influence many musicians and his fame resonates to the present time. No other composer has experienced a similar rebirth. Sadly, he was buried without fanfare or music, implying that he died as a pauper, in a cemetery that no longer exists.

2 views0 comments