Vivaldi: The Red Priest of Baroque

Antonio Vivaldi is one of the main composers one automatically thinks of when the word “Baroque” is used. He was extremely talented and prolific, yet most people only know of his Four Seasons, and I would like to take the time to correct this. For whilst The Four Seasons concertos have memorable melodies full of the extravagant beauty of the Baroque, it is not the only work worth listening to by Vivaldi. He wrote 46 gorgeous operas, over 500 brilliant concertos, 90 sonatas, and sacred choral, sinfonias – he did everything, and he did them well…

Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born on the 4th of March, 1678, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Venice, or Venezia, as it is in Italian. Born into a family of redheads, he also had beautiful red hair which would form part of his nickname – The Red Priest. By that nickname, you’ll gather that he was a priest, which he was, though that vocation was never as important to him as music.

My all-time favourite Vivaldi piece is “Vedro con mio diletto,” from his opera Giustino (1724) which is here performed perfectly by Philippe Jaroussky and Ensemble Matheus under the direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi:

La Fida Ninfa: an opera by Antonio Vivaldi (1732):

I have to disagree with certain things people have said about Vivaldi’s music, like that which my husband says frequently about him, “He’s ok, just nice to have on in the background. He’s certainly no Mozart or Beethoven – it’s superficially nice, but lacks emotion.” This sort of thing irks me and is very much what a person would say having little knowledge of the whole gamut of Vivaldi’s oeuvre.

Let us see if we can find anything “emotional” (I find many works of the Baroque emotional, so I’m the wrong person to ask). Do let me know what you think:

The comments under the youtube video above were quite interesting:

“Just wow. I love the melody in Vivaldi’s pieces. 1:59:51 to 2:04:06. Hits me deep in the soul.”

“there’s some magic in Vivaldi’s compositions!”

Here is Cecilia Bartoli singing the angry Vivaldi aria, Armatae face et anguibus:

Here is “Anche Il Mar Par Che Sommerga” from Vivaldi’s opera, Bajazet, and performed by the marvellous Patrizia Ciofi:

The incomparable I Musici orchestra famously recorded videos to accompany their recordings of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons during Venezia’s famed Carnevale – the traditional festival where people dress in Venetian masks and elaborate costumes. Venezia is one of the pearls of Europe when it came to sources of musical inspiration, and I think the videos below show all of these things:

Next, we have another one of Vivaldi’s operas, this one entitled, L’oracolo in Messenia (1737):

Finally, after having been dogged by dire financial trouble and having endured ill health all of his life, Vivaldi died in Vienna, on the 28th of July, 1741. He had the cheapest burial possible for he had little money. And so ended the life of one of the most prolific Baroque composers – in a foreign country, impoverished, and sickly. I hope you have a better opinion of his music now, but if not, you can’t say I didn’t try.

Recommended Vivaldi works:

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