Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi was an Italian priest, composer and violin virtuoso. He was called "Il Prete Rosso" (The Red Priest) for his red hair. His most famous work is a set of four violin concertos called "Four Seasons".

Vivaldi was born in Venice, his father worked as a barber, but was an excellent musician. Antonio was taught the fundamentals of playing the violin by his father and his first lessons in composition were given by Giovanni Legrenzi. He was ordained a priest, but since childhood suffered from a congenital narrowing of the larynx, which later developed into severe asthma. With this disease, he couldn’t practice as a priest.

In 1703, he became a master of violin in an orphanage, "Pio Ospedale Della Pietà" in Venice. The girls there were led to do housework, and also acquired musical education. The most talented ones became members of the Ospedale choir and orchestra. Vivaldi wrote many concertos, cantatas and sacred music precisely for violin. Vivaldi has been extraordinarily prolific during these years. He published several collections of his songs, composed a series of operas and much instrumental and vocal music. After the success of violin concertos, Vivaldi became a sought-after musician in Europe. Despite his frequent travels, he faithfully fulfilled the contract with the orphanage, which was for two new concerts per month. From 1723 to 1729 he wrote 140 concertos.

In the 18th century, the opera in Venice was the most popular form of entertainment and it is no wonder that, being Venetian, Vivaldi made a significant appearance there. His operas’ popularity increased rapidly. Since 1718, Vivaldi lived in Mantua, for three years, and composed operas for the Court. After a short stop in Milan, he got invited to Rome by Pope Benedict XIII., where he performed several operas and concerts. In 1725, he returned to Venice, where in a single year introduced four new operas.

In this time period, he composed his now perhaps the most popular work "The Four Seasons", four violin concertos depicting the seasons in nature. The piece is probably inspired by the landscape surrounding Mantua.

At his peak, Vivaldi received orders from aristocratic and royal courts across Europe. However, after 1730, his fame began to fade, for his style was deemed outdated. Like most composers of the time at the end of his life, Vivaldi got into financial difficulties. He went to Vienna, where he hoped for greater recognition, but his greatest supporter Emperor Charles VI. soon died. This misfortune has left the composer without a guardian and without funding. He sold his manuscripts and died in 1741. For nearly 200 years was Vivaldi’s music forgotten, until the 20th century made its rediscovery.

Vivaldi's music was, in Bohemia, immensely popular during his lifetime. Between years 1726-1736, six of his operas were played in the aristocratic theater of Count Franz Anton Spork in Prague. Because Vivaldi was a renowned composer at the time, he travelled to premieres of his work. Therefore, it is possible, he had stayed in Prague for some time. The operas were introduced by impresario of Špork’s theatre, Denzio Antonio, who was also known in Italy as librettist and composer and the leader of opera in Venice – a company where Vivaldi hired singers.

Many unique records of his work are preserved in Czech archives. Some were written directly at the request of Czech nobles. Vivaldi's most famous work, "Il Cimento Dell'armonia E Dell'inventione”, which contains the famous concerts of The Four Seasons, is dedicated to Count Václav of Morzin. Antonio Vivaldi himself directed Morzin’s band during concerts in Italy.The Morzine Palace stands on the Malostranské Town Square in Prague.

Vivaldi's music radiates with a pleasure of composing and joy of life. Therein lies the popularity of Vivaldi's music nowadays.