The Kennedy Center

Antonio Vivaldi


Born in Venice in 1678, Antonio Vivaldi is viewed as the master of the Baroque instrumental concerto. His dynamic rhythms, fluid melodies, bright instrumental effects, and extensions of instrumental technique were highly influential on his contemporaries and successors.

Vivaldi's father was a professional violinist. Antonio, the eldest of nine children, entered the priesthood, probably because at the time this was the way for a poor family to obtain free schooling.  Within a year of being ordained he ceased saying Mass, blaming a physical ailment, yet he likely simply preferred to immerse himself in music. He reportedly would hurry from the altar to write a musical idea. Still, he was known much of his career as the "red-haired priest".

Beginning in 1703 and for most of his life Vivaldi was employed by the Ospedale deila Pieta, one of four musical conservatories in Venice. Despite this employ, Vivaldi traveled extensively and throughout his career had his choice of commissions from nobility and the highest members of society, the ability to use the best performers, and the business savvy to control publication of his works.

His most famous work, Four Seasons, was published in 1725 in a set of twelve concertos, each in the distinct form of fast-slow-fast movements. This work especially appealed to the French, and King Louis XV ordered Spring to be performed at unexpected moments.

Notorious for his vanity, and the most prolific of European composers, Vivaldi boasted that he could compose a concerto faster than it could be copied. Praised more by contemporaries as a violinist than a composer, Vivaldi composed operas, hundreds of concertos, and lesser known stage and choral music.

Late in life he was plagued by rumors of a sexual liaison with a vocal student, was censured by ecclesiastical authorities, and then went to Vienna, dying a pauper in 1741.



Antonio Vivaldi


  • Concerto in B minor for Four Violins and Cello, RV 580
  • The Four Seasons
  • The Four Seasons
  • "Summer" and "Winter" from The Four Seasons
  • Concerto in A minor for cello, strings, and basso continuo, RV 419
  • Concerto in C major for sopranino recorder, strings, and basso continuo, RV 443
  • Concerto in G major for two violins and basso continuo, RV 516
  • Gloria in D major, RV 589
View More