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Observing the March 4 birthday of “the Red Priest” – Antonio Vivaldi

Observing the March 4 birthday of “the Red Priest” – Antonio Vivaldi featured image

Antonio Vivaldi, the “Red Priest” (he was ordained and had a full head of bright red hair), known as an opera composer in his day, and the guy who developed the concerto grosso (the Baroque musical form where a small ensemble plays with and against a large ensemble). He was a significant influence on JS Bach (so he REALLY must have been good) and Bach even transcribed six of Vivaldi’s concertos for solo keyboard – three for organ, one for four harpsichords, strings, and basso continuo, based upon the concerto for four violins, two violas, cello, and basso continuo. That’s a lot of work by quill and ink by candlelight.

Vivaldi best known, of course, for his Four Seasons, four violin concertos that describe the four seasons of the year. The descriptive nature of the music was foreshadowing the romantic era, really, when music frequently depicted personal feelings along with nature. During Vivaldi’s time this was considered revolutionary. Speculation says he was likely depicting the countryside of Mantua. One can imagine the visuals as he depicts the sounds of barking dogs, buzzing mosquitoes, a crying shepherd, storms, drunken dancers, silent evenings, hunting parties from the hunter’s and prey’s point of view, frozen landscapes, ice skating children, and warm winter fires.

Vivaldi was very much a “composer for hire” and churned out works at an amazingly fast rate, and enjoyed commissions from the nobility and royalty in Europe. Towards the end of his life, his music fell out of favour and he suffered financial strains, like many composers. He died aged 63 and was buried in a pauper’s grave.

Because we’re all so familiar with Four Seasons, I thought it’d be nice to post something a little different – the Spring movement (to give us hope that winter will soon be over and we’ll see leaves on the tress) on acoustic guitar. This is guitarist Emre Sabuncuoglu’s arrangement of Spring.

Antonio Vivaldi was born March 4, 1678 in Venice, Italy, and died July 28, 1741 in Vienna, Austria.

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