Antonio Vivaldi (Composer)|
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born on March 4th, 1678. His father, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, was a barber who took up violin, and was apparently good enough to dazzle the basilica of St. Mark (San Marco) since he got a job there performing, and later performed in operas. It is likely he has not been given enough credit for Antonio‘s abilities as a musician and composer. Not only did he teach Antonio to play the violin, but they performed together on several occasions. Before Antonio‘s popularity with L‘Estro Armonico, the Vivaldi‘s were a father/son team marked as one of the tourist attractions of Venice. I have not heard anything as to whether Giovanni performed any of his son‘s work, or if he composed anything himself. It is likely he played something and would be an interesting side note if it were known to be so. Giovanni also hand copied some of Vivaldi‘s manuscripts, as did three of Vivaldi‘s nephews. Vivaldi was part of a large family. He had four brothers and four sisters. He was the lone musician.
Vivaldi was a master violinist and continually dazzled the patrons of the Ospedale with his wild bowing. A colorful account by the German traveler Johann Friedrich Armand von Uffenbach sums up Vivaldi‘s mastery very well. "Vivaldi played a solo accompaniment-- splendid-- to which he appended a cadenza which really frightened me, for such playing has never been nor can be: he brought his fingers up to only a straw‘s distance from the bridge, leaving no room for the bow-- and that on all four strings with imitations and incredible speed." Vivaldi later met with Uffenbach and without much coercion talked him into buying several concertos Vivaldi claimed to have written specifically for him. He accompanied this sale with the offer to teach him to play the concertos (with due compensation) emphasizing his role as teacher and businessman. After all, selling his music and mastery was his bread and butter. I do not know if Uffenbach took him up on the offer.
Vivaldi achieved fame in Venice by emulating the style of Archangelo Corelli‘s famous Opus 6, a collection of twelve violin concertos (including the baroque war-horse #8, the Christmas Concerto) that were not unlike the several collections that Vivaldi published. It was Opus 3 that brought fame to Vivaldi. L‘Estro Armonico ("The Musical Inspiration") is a collection of twelve concertos for violin that established Vivaldi‘s style: tight, rhythmic compositions, three fast-slow-fast movements, and dazzling instrument solos. They were published in Amsterdam by Estienne Roger in 1711. The publishing house printed most of Vivaldi‘s works-- over 500 in his lifetime. He used the Amsterdam house rather than a local one because they engraved the music on plates rather than using movable type as the Venetian printers did. The results were much more accurate and readable, although they probably cost a fortune to have made. The final printing came in two volumes, considerably larger than any other Venetian composition at the time. Vivaldi and Albinoni were the first Italian composers to have their works published this way, and after this every composer in Venice was having their work printed in northern Europe, which had the beneficial side-effect of exposing the north to Italian music, which in turn had the effect that Italian composers started writing for northern tastes-- a giant circle of influences. The concerto form, popular throughout Italy, was something new in the north. Roger exposed this music to the northern countries and the Italian influence spread across Europe, especially in Germany. Vivaldi was at the forefront of this influence.