Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741) is now acknowledged to be one of the greatest Baroque composers. Perhaps best known for the four violin concertos The Four Seasons, Vivaldi wrote many instrumental concertos, sacred choral works and over forty operas. He was renowned during his lifetime as a composer and a virtuoso violinist; his fame and influence were widespread across Europe.
Vivaldi was born in Venice in March 1678. His father Giovanni, a professional violinist, taught his young son to play, and the duo performed together in Venice. The young Antonio was a gifted composer, writing his first liturgical work, Laetatus Sum, when he was only thirteen.
Pio Ospedale della Pieta
The interior of the Pieta
In 1693, aged fifteen, Vivaldi began studying for the priesthood, and was ordained in 1703. He was nicknamed 'Il Preto Rosso'
, 'The Red Priest', because of his fiery red hair. In September that same year, at the age of twenty-five, he was appointed Maestro di Violino
at the Pio Ospedale della Pieta
(Devout Hospital of Mercy) in Venice. This institution, funded by the Venetian Republic, housed and cared for orphaned, illegitimate and abandoned children. Boys learned a trade. Girls received a musical education, the most talented becoming permanent members of the Pieta
orchestra and choir.
After Vivaldi's appointment, the reputation of the Pieta's all-female ensemble grew. The girls' singing and playing flourished; they became famous and were highly praised at home and abroad. Over the years, Vivaldi held several posts at the Pieta. As Maestro di Coro he taught the girls music theory, as well as how to play various instruments. As Maestro di Concerti he was required to compose new music for every feast day. The Gloria is one of many sacred works he wrote during this time, and was probably scored originally for female voices.
Vivaldi's association with the Pieta continued until 1740, a year before his death, when he resigned his post there and travelled to Vienna in an unsuccessful attempt to find a post as composer in the court of Charles IV. His music had become unpopular with the public as musical tastes changed, and he died in poverty a year later in 1741. After his death his work fell into obscurity, until it was re-discovered in the 20th Century, restoring Vivaldi's popularity with the public and returning his music to its rightful place amongst the beauties of the Baroque age.
Listen to Gloria in excelsis Deo from Vivaldi's Gloria
- George Frideric Handel (
1685 – 1759
It's astonishing to realise that Handel composed Dixit Dominus, a setting of Psalm 110, when he was only twenty-two years old, completing it in 1707 and signing it with his earliest known autograph.
The music, full of youthful exuberance and uninhibited invention, displays his early brilliance as a
composer. Composed thirty-four years earlier than Messiah, in a different country and a different style, Dixit equals Handel's later, more famous work in vitality and excitement.
Dixit was written at Rome during Handel's four-year stay in Italy. During this time he received hospitality and support from some very influential patrons, among whom were three powerful and wealthy cardinals. In Italy, Handel also came into contact with Corelli and the Scarlattis, and with some of the finest singers and instrumentalists in Europe. It has been said that having arrived in Italy a German, he left accepted by the Italians as one who spoke their own musical language.*
Dixit Dominus is scored for five vocal soloists, chorus, strings and continuo
Don't miss this opportunity to experience the uplifting excitement and intriguing intricacies of this wonderful piece, a pearl in the crown of glorious Baroque music.
*(Julian Herbage, 'The Oratorios', in Handel: A Symposium, ed Gerald Abraham, London 1954).