Antonio VivaldiYou’ve probably heard a work called “The Four Seasons”, the famous violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. With their colorful musical descriptions of the seasons, it’s no wonder these concertos are a staple of classical music. Now imagine the beautiful works of this talented composer sitting and collecting dust for more than 150 years. Impossible? No–it actually happened.

Antonio Vivaldi was a Baroque composer born in the year 1678 in Venice. Here are five interesting facts about this Italian composer and his “lost works”.

1. Vivaldi was an Excellent Violinist

Vivaldi wasn’t just a composer – he was also an incredible violinist. His first teacher was his father, Giovanni Vivaldi, who was a respected violinist employed by a church in Venice. Vivaldi’s preference for the violin showed in his compositions: 221 of his concertos are for solo violin and orchestra and most of his sonatas were for either one or two violins. Vivaldi’s violin music tended to be technically demanding, probably as a result of his own mastery of the instrument.

2. Vivaldi Was a Priest

When he was 25, Vivaldi was ordained as a Catholic priest after studying for the position for ten years. He soon acquired the nickname il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”) because of his red hair. However, within a year of being ordained, Vivaldi was excused from the daily celebration of Mass because of a “tightness of the chest”.

3. Vivaldi had Health Problems

This “tightness of the chest” plagued Vivaldi all his life, likely a symptom of bronchial asthma. While the condition didn’t hinder his violin playing, it did hinder his mobility and prevented him from learning wind instruments and serving as a priest.

4. Vivaldi was Employed at the Ospedale della Pieta Orphanage

In 1703, at age 25, Vivaldi landed his first job as violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pieta (“Hospital of Mercy”). Though sometimes described as an orphanage, the Ospedale della Pieta was far from the impoverished institution usually associated with the term. This one was specifically for the illegitimate daughters of noblemen, and it was well-funded by their philandering fathers. The girls were provided a comfortable, safe place to live and, apparently, top-notch music lessons.

Music was the main focus of education in the Ospedale della Pieta. The girls learned to sing and play instruments including violin, cello, organ, bassoon, flute and oboe. Under Vivaldi’s instruction as violin teacher, and later as conductor, the Ospedale della Pieta became quite famous for the musical excellence of the girls. Their talent was showcased in frequent orchestral and choral concerts that helped fund the Ospedale. Vivaldi composed a great deal of music for “his” ladies while at the Ospedale, which included concertos, cantatas and sacred vocal music.

5. Vivaldi was Rediscovered in the 1900s

After Vivaldi’s death in 1741, his music fell largely into obscurity. It resurfaced in 1926 when Dr. Alberto Gentili was asked to appraise some old manuscripts from a monastery in Piedmont. Dr. Gentili realized he was dealing with some of Vivaldi’s original manuscripts, and was able to acquire and save all of the collection in the Turin Library. Vivaldi’s unpublished music was brought to the limelight in 1939 with “Vivaldi Week”, an event that hosted the performance of many little-known Vivaldi works. His music has remained well-known (and well-loved) to this day.

Listen to famous compositions by Vivaldi

Vivaldi’s Gloria historically accurate performance

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

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