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Music / Antonio Vivaldi

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Antonio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 — 28 July 1741) was an Italian composer and violinist from the Baroque era.

He was considered a master of the Baroque concerto form and is perhaps best known for a set of four violin concertos called the Four Seasons. He also wrote a lot of sacred music, operas, and cantatas.

Vivaldi began his career as a Catholic priest and a music tutor at a school for girls in Venice. He was referred to as 'The Red Priest' for his red hair. However, after a year as a priest, Vivaldi received a dispensation from celebrating Mass because of a "tightness of the chest," of which he had complained his entire life. This left him free to devote his time to music.

During much of his career, he was very popular in his native Venice as well as elsewhere in Europe, but changing musical tastes left him behind, and he died poor. Like many pre-Classical era composers, he fell into relative obscurity by the 19th century. But his popularity went through a revival in the early 20th century, helped along by, among others, Ezra Pound and the discovery in a monastery of music previously thought lost.

Bach thought highly of him and transcribed some Vivaldi works to other instruments (i.e., turning some of Vivaldi's violin concertos into pieces for organ or harpsichord).

Vivaldi's works provide examples of:

  • Avian Flute: Concerto in D for Flute RV 428 is subtitled "The Goldfinch" and has several trilling and swooping passages suggesting the title creature.
  • Baroque Music: One of the most well-known Baroque composers.
  • The Old North Wind: In his violin concerto cycle "The Four Seasons," Boreas (il vento Borea) makes noted appearances in two of the concerti. In the first movement of "Summer," Boreas manifests in a tumultuous passage with the violins playing thirty-second notes, disrupting the gentle breezes of Zephyr and foreshadowing the destructive thunderstorm depicted in the third movement. In the third movement of "Winter," Boreas is similarly represented as a wild solo violin break; though quickly joined by other winds (i.e. the ensemble), Boreas once again follows music depicting a gentler wind, in this case, the hot Sirocco, recalling the languid opening of "Summer."
  • Trope Codifier:
    • While the three-movement concerto form already existed, concertos often had more movements, often as many as four or more. Vivaldi helped codify the three-movement form as his popularity spread throughout Europe, and most concertos from the late Baroque period and onward adopted the standard three movements.
    • "The Four Seasons" was written to accompany a set of four poems about the seasons (possibly written by Vivaldi himself) and used musical devices to portray the things mentioned in the poems, such as birds, rain, and thunder; it became the defining example of the genre of "program music," instrumental music written to illustrate a text or other non-musical narrative.

Vivaldi in popular culture

  • Phone any company and ask for somebody not present on the phone. While you are put on hold chances are 9 out of 10 that the melody will be "Spring" from the "Four Seasons".
  • Play with Me by Extreme features riffs from various classical pieces including Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca and Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.
  • "Winter" from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" is used in BanYa's catalog for Pump It Up.
  • V and V2 from beatmania IIDX samples Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, L'inverno (Winter) from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.
  • "Vorsprung Durch Techno" and "Summer in Belize" from In the Groove 2 are based on the Spring and Summer movements, respectively, of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
  • He is mentioned as being dead in the song "Decomposing Composers" by Michael Palin sang on Monty Python's Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album.
  • In the podcast Sequinox, four magical girls themed after the four seasons are aided by a young man who calls himself Vivaldi. He has a magical violin that he can use to empower the girls by playing either their respective concerto or "Woman" by Kesha.
  • Helena Douglas's theme from Dead or Alive 2 takes heavy influence from the third movement of "Summer."