Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto f-moll (Winter) from «Four Seasons». Transcription for accordion by A. Dmitriev.
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An Italian Baroque period composer, Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678, the son of a violinist at St. Mark Cathedral. Known as the "Father of the Concerto", Vivaldi is recognized fundamentally as a performer and a composer of orchestral music. The greatest writer of concertos, his influence extended to many classical concerto composers, who applied his use of the soloist, themes, textures, and rhythms.
Vivaldi is best known for his concerti grossi and solo concertos, or works that effectively utilize both large and small groups of orchestras. Most of his works were scored for one solo instrument and orchestra, and he wrote a total of approximately 500 concertos. 230 of these were for the violin instrument. His concertos followed the usual three-movement organization, and Vivaldi was the first composer to make the slow, interior movement as significant as the two outer fast movements called "Allegros". Another accomplishment belonging to Vivaldi was the development of concerto form, more properly called "ritornello" form. Employing a refrain in the concertos, this form alternates between new themes and a recurring tune. Viewed as influential to other composers of his time, some of Vivaldi concertos were used as the basis for keyboard transcriptions of J.S. Bach (1685-1750).
In education, Vivaldi received formal training in music and in the priesthood. Known as the "red priest" because of his religion and bright hair color, he took holy orders. Since he suffered from serious asthma, however, Vivaldi resigned after only a year due to poor health. He then went on to strictly musical occupations. Becoming violin instructor, composer, conductor, and music director of the Pie Opsedale della Pieta in 1704, Antonio Vivaldi held a position at the most important music school in Venice, which also happened to be an institution for illegitimate or orphaned girls. Antonio composed many works for the students at this school, whose orchestra was thought of as one of Italian best. As he had to write music for each event that took place at the girls school, the speed of production was important. Boasting a total of 49 commissioned operas, Vivaldi also composed works for Venetian opera houses and foreign courts.
From the 1725 concerto The Four Seasons, this composer most popular piece is entitled Winter. A collection of four solo concertos for violin, strings, and basso continuo, each section is an aural representation of one of the four seasons in nature. This group of four is a historical example of programmatic music, or instrumental music that relays a story to the listener. In review of a concert at Louis XV court where The Four Seasons was presented, a Paris newspaper wrote that "this beautiful music was performed perfectly" (Kamien 168).
The greatest contribution of Antonio Vivaldi to music history is the development of the concerto form. Although this prominence faded even before his death, he was also famous as a composer and a virtuoso violin player. In addition, he was known to have a sizeable ego and was a careless spender. Dying a poor man in 1741, Vivaldi was simply buried in a pauper grave. It was not until about 200 years after his death with a rediscovery of Baroque composers in the 20th century that his memory came alive.