Born on the day of an earthquake 335 years ago and not apparently very strong, Antonio Vivaldi was baptized the same day by the midwife who delivered him and again, officially, two months later in church. Maybe his frailty and the shock of the quake were what prompted his mother to promise him to the priesthood, which he dutifully began to study for at the age of 15.
In the meantime his father, a violinist as well as a barber, taught him the instrument and the redheaded Vivaldis performed all over Venice. Not long after his ordination, Antonio became known as ‘the Red Priest,’ and as a musician of great proficiency. He was hired as violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pieta, an orphanage where boys were taught a trade and girls were taught music. If you were good enough you might grow up to become a permanent member of the Ospedale orchestra, which under Vivaldi became famous all over Europe.
Long story short, Vivaldi was admired and well off during his prime, but ended impoverished and forgotten by the time he died in 1741, forced at the end to sell his original manuscripts for almost nothing. And he stayed forgotten until the 20th century, when violinist Fritz Kreisler made one of Vivaldi’s compositions famous and scholars and musicians got interested in him again.
(As it turned out the Kriesler Vivaldi was actually a pastiche composed by Kriesler in Vivaldi’s style, but it served to get the ball rolling.)
Since the Ospedale wanted new music for every important occasion and Vivaldi worked there for almost 30 years, it should not be surprising that he wrote about 500 concerti, lots of sacred choral music , 90 sonatas and some incidental pieces, in addition to the 46 operas he wrote for various patrons.
And herewith, some Vivaldi performed by the wonderful Il Giardino Armonico: