Famous for The Four Seasons, a suite of concertos for solo violin and string orchestra, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was one of the most influential composers of the baroque. The Venice-born composer wrote hundreds of concertos, many of them for the girls at the Ospedale della Pietà, the orphanage where Vivaldi was music tutor. (Vivaldi, incidentally, was a priest. He had red hair, which gave rise to the nickname “Il prete rosso” – the red priest.) His Op 3 collection of concertos, L’estro armonico, which was published in Amsterdam in 1711, made him famous throughout Europe. Johann Sebastian Bach, for instance, came to know the ins and outs of the Italian Style through close examination of Vivaldi’s music. He even arranged some of the concertos from L’estro armonico, a sure sign of his admiration for Vivaldi. Less well known is the fact that Vivaldi composed a significant quantity of operas, of which 21 survive, although not all in complete form. Vivaldi also composed sacred music, including masses, psalms and motets. Sadly, given his reputation and influence, he died in penury in Vienna. His music remained neglected for the better part of two centuries but has made a spectacular comeback in recent decades. Indeed, The Four Seasons is one of the most recorded pieces of classical music of all time.

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