In the final week of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, the Venice Baroque Orchestra with Avi Avital will be playing a program heavily featuring works by Antoni Vivaldi, including a concerto from his work The Four Seasons. In the final composer spotlight of the festival, learn about the life of Vivaldi.
Antoni Vivaldi (full name Antonio Lucio Vivaldi) was born 1678 in Venice, Italy. His first known public appearance was playing alongside his father at the San Marco Basilica as a “supernumerary” violinist. In 1703, Vivaldi was appointed violin master at the Ospedale della Pietà. This began a long line of dealings with the Pietà, serving as the director of instrumental music and later the paid external supplier of compositions. Some of his earliest musical compositions come from his years there, including Opus 3, L’estro armonico.
Vivaldi was also a priest, ordained in 1703. He had to stop celebrating mass soon after because of a chronic ailment believed to be bronchial asthma. Despite this, he still took being a secular priest seriously and earned the reputation of a religious bigot.
The only full-time post Vivaldi ever held was in Mantua as director of secular government for the city governor, Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt. During this period of 1718-1720, his major compositions were operas, though he composed cantatas and instrumental works as well. Vivaldi seemingly preferred the flexibility and entrepreneurial opportunities being a freelance composer gave him.
The highest point of Vivaldi’s career occurred in the 1720s. He was based in Venice but found himself frequently traveling to supply patrons and customers throughout Europe. Five new collections of concerti were entrusted to an Amsterdam music-publishing firm between 1725 and 1729. Along with this, he received numerous opera commissions and resumed his role as an impresario in Italy.
After the 1930s, Vivaldi’s music fell out of fashion, and he died in likely considerable poverty in 1741.
There are almost 500 concerti by Vivaldi still surviving. Over 300 are concerti for a solo instrument with string orchestra and continuo. Of these, about 230 are written for solo violin, 40 for bassoon, 25 for cello, 15 for oboe, and 10 for flute. There are also concerti for viola d’amore, recorder, mandolin, and other instruments. The remaining concerti are either double concerti, concerti grossi using three or more soloists, concerti ripieni (string concerti without a soloist), or chamber concerti for a group of instruments without orchestra. Along with that, More than 50 authentic sacred vocal compositions by Vivaldi still survive.
The Venice Baroque Orchestra with Avi Avital will be performing his Concerto in D Major for Lute, RV 93, Concerto in G Major for Mandolin and Recorder, RV 532, Concerto in D Minor for Strings, RV 127, Mandolin Concerto in C Major, RV 425, and Concerto in G minor, “Summer.” The concert is July 12 at 7:30 p.m.