Ok...this guy is pretty cool. I've always liked his music, but didn't know anything about his life. I did some research and found out that the story of Antonio Vivaldi is pretty dang interesting.
Antonio Vivaldi almost got forgotten. When he died in 1741 he had fallen out of favor in Europe, and was penniless. He was buried in a pauper's grave. As Europe moved into the Classical musical period and away from baroque, Vivaldi was forgotten. His name was barely mentioned for the 200 years following his death. Indeed, it might not have been mentioned again, if not for a couple of remarkable discoveries. Vivaldi had written a large number of concertos for the Dresden orchestra. When his music had fallen out of style, the scores were stored in a large cabinet and left to collect dust. The discovery of these papers led to a resurgence of interest in Vivaldi and in 1926 a monastary in Piedmont found 14 volumes of Vivaldi's work. This included over hundred concertos, twelve operas, 29 cantatas, and a complete oratorio. This music had sat idle for nearly 200 years, and is perhaps one of the greatest discoveries in musical history. Realizing that this was only part of Vivaldi's work, the search began for the bulk. Another collection, almost as large as the one in Piedmont was discovered in the hands of two brothers whose family had passed down the obscure collection for over 200 years. Vivaldi's popularity continued to spread and by 1960 his popularity was wider than it ever had been, mostly due to "The Four Seasons" and "Gloria"
Now for some stuff about the man himself....Yup, like the last write-ups say, Antonio was born in 1678. His dad, a barber, was also a violinist and not only taught his son to play, but performed with him as one of the main tourist attractions in Venice in the late 1680s. (I didn't even know tourists EXISTED in the 1680s) Antonio Vivaldi was a spectacular performer and kept audiences spellbound with his wild playing. German traveler Johann Friedrich Armand von Uffenbach wrote of a performance by Antonio: "Vivaldi played a solo accompaniment-- splendid-- to which he appended a cadenza which really frightened me, for such playing has never been nor can be: he brought his fingers up to only a straw's distance from the bridge, leaving no room for the bow-- and that on all four strings with imitations and incredible speed."
Vivaldi was also a priest, and was known as "The Red Priest" because of his flaming red hair. His heart wasn't really in the priesthood however, and he claimed to be unable to say Mass because of "chest tightness". He was ordained in 1703, and almost immediately took a position as the music teacher at an all-girls orphanage in Venice.
The Ospedale delle Pieta (the Hospital of Pity or Compassion) in Venice not only served as a school for actual orphans, but also as a reform school for wayward girls and a home for the daughters of wealthy men and their mistresses around Venice. Vivaldi taught the girls music and wrote two concertos a month for them to perform. Indeed, he taught them so well that the Ospedale orchestra (as the girls' chorus was called) became vastly popular as evening entertainment for wealthy Venetians, and lagged only slightly behind the Opera in attendance. Vivaldi kept his position at the orphanage for six years, being voted out after that time for his continued refusal to say Mass. He came back in a few years however, and was quickly taken back and resumed work
Ok, now for the DIRT on Antonio Vivaldi. When Vivaldi was 48 he met a young singer named Anna Giraud. She was 16 and playing the lead in one of his operas. She was not known to be a great singer or beauty, but her acting ability was fairly well-known and she won good reviews with her performances. Soon after meeting, Anna and her sister moved into Vivaldi's house and traveled with him when he roamed Europe. Vivaldi said the sisters provided him with health care, citing his inability to say Mass or perform other priestly duties. Vivaldi also denied any relationship beyond that of caretaker and patient and teacher and student, but tongues all over Europe were wagging and at least one performance was cancelled due to the rumour of improprieties.
Phew!!! That was fun. Next time I listen to Gloria I'll think of that asthmatic red-haired priest with his young caretaker and ponder on the improbability of me listening to and loving his music almost 300 years later. Or maybe I won't.