On this day, March 4th, 1678, Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice. Vivaldi is best known for his composition The Four Seasons and, of course, for being a virtuoso violinist.
Vivaldi trained to be a priest, as in those days attending a seminary was the only option for poor families to provide free education for their sons. It was during this same time that he was taught to play violin by his father. His earliest known performance was in 1696. While he was ordained at the age of 25 in 1703, not a year went by before he asked to be excused from daily Mass due to ‘tightness in his chest’, presumably from asthma, which he endured throughout his life.
In any event, it was music, not the church, that became Vivaldi’s passion. During his life he wrote some 500 concertos, along with a great number of operas and religious pieces. Le Quattro Stagioni, or The Four Seasons, which he composed in 1723, is undoubtedly his most well known work and is comprised of four violin concertos, each section resembling a respective season.
Despite his prolific body of work, Vivaldi’s legacy all but disappeared after his death in 1741. The majority of what we now know of his work was discovered in the 1920’s, packed away in a trunk. Further, he was not widely know until after the 1950s. It is in this sense that he was considered an ‘opaque luminary’; the expression referring to people who shine brightly in their own era, but after their death are largely unknown.
Vivaldi’s lifelong affliction with asthma is thought to be the ultimate cause of his death in 1741. Like another musical great, Mozart, Vivaldi died in poverty. Though he was buried then in an unmarked grave, he is now infinitely remembered through his music.