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About Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio VivaldiAntonio Vivaldi (c. 1678-1741), who is known as the 'Red Priest', was one of the most prolific composers of the concerto. Of the 700 concertos he wrote, some are for single solo instruments, chiefly the violin, while others are for several solo instruments. Fifty of these works are sinfonia concertos for full orchestra without any soloist.
The Four Seasons are from his opus 8 (1725), and show off a variety of colors and textures. From 1703 to 1740, Vivaldi was a teacher of violin, director of concerts and choirmaster at the Seminario musicale dell' Ospitale della Piet `a in Venice. It was a combination of a musical conservatory for girls, an orphanage, nunnery, and a convent school. Many of these girls were the illegitimate children of wealthy Italian merchants. They were brought up by the state and trained solely to excel in music. Venice boasted four schools in all.

Most of Vivaldi's concertos and symphonies where written for faculty associates and student ensembles in the Pieta. Women singers and string players entertained guests to the convent with concerts of Vivaldi's music. A painting by Francesco Guardi shows that the ladies were arranged on three balconies above the audience. They were hidden from distinct view by an iron lattice.

The virtuosity of Vivaldi's orchestral works implies that many of these female musicians had achieved tremendous mastery of their instruments. The French jurist Charles de Brosses wrote of this orchestra, "The transcendent music is that of the asylums . . . they sing like angels and play the violin, the flute, the organ, the oboe, the cello, and the bassoon; in short, there is no instrument, however unwieldy, that can frighten them. It is they alone who perform, and about forty girls take part in each concert . . . There is nothing like the sight of a young and pretty nun in a white habit, with a bunch of pomegranate blossoms over her ear, conducting the orchestra and beating time with all the grace and precision imaginable.''

Vivaldi claims to have composed 90 operas. His "Four Seasons Concertos" were the rage in Europe. He was the ambassador to France and a liason for the Pope. Yet he died in poverty. Now his music is performed and recorded world-wide by the finest orchestras and soloists.

The Antonio
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Read Viola Music by Women Composers, by Dr. Carolyn Waters Broe - ASTA/NSOA Conference 2005 - presentation partially funded by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.



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