George Frideric Handel (left) and King George I on the River Thames, 17 July 1717, by Édouard Jean Conrad Hamman (1819–88).
In 1710, Handel became Kapellmeister to German prince Georg, the Elector of Hanover, who in 1714 would become King George I of Great Britain and Ireland. He visited Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici and her husband in Düsseldorf on his way to London in 1710. With his opera Rinaldo, based on La Gerusalemme Liberata by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso, Handel enjoyed great success, although it was composed quickly, with many borrowings from his older Italian works. This work contains one of Handel's favourite arias, Cara sposa, amante cara, and the famous Lascia ch'io pianga.
In 1712, Handel decided to settle permanently in England. He received a yearly income of £200 from Queen Anne after composing for her the Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate, first performed in 1713.
One of his most important patrons was The 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork, a young and incredibly wealthy member of an Anglo-Irisharistocratic family. For the young Lord Burlington, Handel wrote Amadigi di Gaula, a magical opera, about a damsel in distress, based on the tragedy by Antoine Houdar de la Motte.
The conception of an opera as a coherent structure was slow to capture Handel's imagination and he renounced it for five years. In July 1717 Handel's Water Music was performed more than three times on the Thames for the King and his guests. It is said the compositions spurred reconciliation between the King and Handel.
Main article: Handel at Cannons
The Chandos portrait. The 1st Duke of Chandos was an important patron for Handel.
In 1717 Handel became house composer at Cannons in Middlesex, where he laid the cornerstone for his future choral compositions in the twelve Chandos Anthems.Romain Rolland stated that these anthems were as important for his oratorios as the cantatas were for his operas. Another work he wrote for The 1st Duke of Chandos, the owner of Cannons, was Acis and Galatea: during Handel's lifetime it was his most performed work. Winton Dean wrote, "the music catches breath and disturbs the memory".
In 1719 the Duke of Chandos became one of the main subscribers to Handel's new opera company, the Royal Academy of Music, but his patronage of music declined after he lost money in the South Sea bubble, which burst in 1720 in one of history's greatest financial cataclysms. Handel himself invested in South Sea stock in 1716, when prices were low and sold before 1720.
Royal Academy of Music (1719–34)
Main article: Royal Academy of Music (company)
Handel House at 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London
In May 1719, The 1st Duke of Newcastle, the Lord Chamberlain, ordered Handel to look for new singers. Handel travelled to Dresden to attend the newly built opera. He saw Teofane by Antonio Lotti, and engaged the cast for the Royal Academy of Music, founded by a group of aristocrats to assure themselves a constant supply of baroque opera or opera seria. Handel may have invited John Smith, his fellow student in Halle, and his son Johann Christoph Schmidt, to become his secretary and amanuensis. By 1723 he had moved into a Georgian house at 25 Brook Street, which he rented for the rest of his life. This house, where he rehearsed, copied music and sold tickets, is now the Handel House Museum. During twelve months between 1724 and 1725, Handel wrote three outstanding and successful operas, Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano and Rodelinda. Handel's operas are filled with da capo arias, such as Svegliatevi nel core. After composing Silete venti, he concentrated on opera and stopped writing cantatas. Scipio, from which the regimental slow march of the British Grenadier Guardsis derived, was performed as a stopgap, waiting for the arrival of Faustina Bordoni.
In 1727 Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the Coronation ceremony of King George II. One of these, Zadok the Priest, has been played at every British coronation ceremony since. In 1728 John Gay's The Beggar's Opera premiered at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre and ran for 62 consecutive performances, the longest run in theatre history up to that time. After nine years Handel's contract was ended but he soon started a new company.
The Queen's Theatre at the Haymarket (now Her Majesty's Theatre), established in 1705 by architect and playwright John Vanbrugh, quickly became an opera house. Between 1711 and 1739, more than 25 of Handel's operas premièred there. In 1729 Handel became joint manager of the Theatre with John James Heidegger.
A musical portrait of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his sisters by Philip Mercier, dated 1733, using Kew Palace as its plein-air backdrop
The Queen's Theatre in the Haymarket in London by William Capon
Handel travelled to Italy to engage seven new singers. He composed seven more operas, but the public came to hear the singers rather than the music. After two commercially successful English oratorios Esther and Deborah, he was able to invest again in the South Sea Company. Handel reworked his Acis and Galatea which then became his most successful work ever. Handel failed to compete with the Opera of the Nobility, who engaged musicians such as Johann Adolf Hasse, Nicolo Porpora and the famous castrato Farinelli. The strong support by Frederick, Prince of Wales caused conflicts in the royal family. In March 1734 Handel directed a wedding anthem This is the day which the Lord hath made, and a serenataParnasso in Festa for Anne of Hanover.
Opera at Covent Garden (1734–41)
In 1733 the Earl of Essex received a letter with the following sentence: "Handel became so arbitrary a prince, that the Town murmurs". The board of chief investors expected Handel to retire when his contract ended, but Handel immediately looked for another theatre. In cooperation with John Rich he started his third company at Covent Garden Theatre. Rich was renowned for his spectacular productions. He suggested Handel use his small chorus and introduce the dancing of Marie Sallé, for whom Handel composed Terpsichore. In 1735 he introduced organ concertos between the acts. For the first time Handel allowed Gioacchino Conti, who had no time to learn his part, to substitute arias. Financially, Ariodante was a failure, although he introduced ballet suites at the end of each act.Alcina, his last opera with a magic content, and Alexander's Feast or the Power of Music based on John Dryden's Alexander's Feast starred Anna Maria Strada del Pò and John Beard.
In April 1737, at age 52, Handel apparently suffered a stroke which disabled the use of four fingers on his right hand, preventing him from performing. In summer the disorder seemed at times to affect his understanding. Nobody expected that Handel would ever be able to perform again. But whether the affliction was rheumatism, a stroke or a nervous breakdown, he recovered remarkably quickly . To aid his recovery, Handel had travelled to Aachen, a spa in Germany. During six weeks he took long hot baths, and ended up playing the organ for a surprised audience.
Deidamia, his last opera, was performed three times in 1741. Handel gave up the opera business, while he enjoyed more success with his English oratorios.
Further information: List of Handel's oratorios
Handel by Philip Mercier
Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, an allegory, Handel's first oratorio was composed in Italy in 1707, followed by La Resurrezione in 1708 which uses material from the Bible. The circumstances of Esther and its first performance, possibly in 1718, are obscure. Another 12 years had passed when an act of piracy caused him to take up Esther once again. Three earlier performances aroused such interest that they naturally prompted the idea of introducing it to a larger public. Next came Deborah, strongly coloured by the Anthems and Athaliah, his first English Oratorio. In these three oratorios Handel laid foundation for the traditional use of the chorus which marks his later oratorios. Handel became sure of himself, broader in his presentation, and more diverse in his composition.
It is evident how much he learned from Arcangelo Corelli about writing for instruments, and from Alessandro Scarlatti about writing for the solo voice; but there is no single composer who taught him how to write for chorus. Handel tended more and more to replace Italian soloists by English ones. The most significant reason for this change was the dwindling financial returns from his operas. Thus a tradition was created for oratorios which was to govern their future performance. The performances were given without costumes and action; the performers appeared in a black suit.
Caricature of Handel by Joseph Goupy (1754)
In 1736 Handel produced Alexander's Feast. John Beard appeared for the first time as one of Handel's principal singers and became Handel's permanent tenor soloist for the rest of Handel's life. The piece was a great success and it encouraged Handel to make the transition from writing Italian operas to English choral works. In Saul, Handel was collaborating with Charles Jennens and experimenting with three trombones, a carillon and extra-large military kettledrums (from the Tower of London), to be sure "...it will be most excessive noisy".Saul and Israel in Egypt both from 1739 head the list of great, mature oratorios, in which the da capo and dal segno aria became the exception and not the rule.Israel in Egypt consists of little else but choruses, borrowing from the Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline. In his next works Handel changed his course. In these works he laid greater stress on the effects of orchestra and soloists; the chorus retired into the background.L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato has a rather diverting character; the work is light and fresh.
During the summer of 1741, The 3rd Duke of Devonshire invited Handel to Dublin, capital of the Kingdom of Ireland, to give concerts for the benefit of local hospitals. His Messiah was first performed at the New Music Hall in Fishamble Street on 13 April 1742, with 26 boys and five men from the combined choirs of St. Patrick's and Christ Church cathedrals participating. Handel secured a balance between soloists and chorus which he never surpassed.
In 1747 Handel wrote his oratorio Alexander Balus. This work was produced at Covent Garden Theatre, on March 23, 1748, and to the aria Hark! hark! He strikes the golden lyre, Handel wrote the acccompaniment for mandolin, harp, violin, viola, and violoncello.
The use of English soloists reached its height at the first performance of Samson. The work is highly theatrical. The role of the chorus became increasingly important in his later oratorios. Jephtha was first performed on 26 February 1752; even though it was his last oratorio, it was no less a masterpiece than his earlier works.
George Frideric Handel in 1733, by Balthasar Denner (1685–1749)
In 1749 Handel composed Music for the Royal Fireworks; 12,000 people attended the first performance. In 1750 he arranged a performance of Messiah to benefit the Foundling Hospital. The performance was considered a great success and was followed by annual concerts that continued throughout his life. In recognition of his patronage, Handel was made a governor of the Hospital the day after his initial concert. He bequeathed a copy of Messiah to the institution upon his death. His involvement with the Foundling Hospital is today commemorated with a permanent exhibition in London's Foundling Museum, which also holds the Gerald Coke Handel Collection. In addition to the Foundling Hospital, Handel also gave to a charity that assisted impoverished musicians and their families.
In August 1750, on a journey back from Germany to London, Handel was seriously injured in a carriage accident between The Hague and Haarlem in the Netherlands. In 1751 one eye started to fail. The cause was a cataract which was operated on by the great charlatan Chevalier Taylor. This did not improve his eyesight, but possibly made it worse. He died eight years later in 1759 at home in Brook Street, at age 74. The last performance he attended was of Messiah. Handel was buried in Westminster Abbey. More than three thousand mourners attended his funeral, which was given full state honours.
Handel never married, and kept his personal life private. His initial will bequeathed the bulk of his estate to his niece Johanna, however four codicils distributed much of his estate to other relations, servants, friends and charities.
Handel owned an art collection that was auctioned posthumously in 1760. The auction catalogue listed approximately seventy paintings and ten prints (other paintings were bequeathed).
Senesino, the famous castrato from Siena
Main articles: List of compositions by George Frideric Handel and List of operas by Handel.
Handel's compositions include 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, numerous arias, chamber music, a large number of ecumenical pieces, odes and serenatas, and 16 organ concerti. His most famous work, the oratorio Messiah with its "Hallelujah" chorus, is among the most popular works in choral music and has become the centrepiece of the Christmas season. Among the works with opus numbers published and popularised in his lifetime are the Organ Concertos Op.4 and Op.7, together with the Opus 3 and Opus 6 concerti grossi; the latter incorporate an earlier organ concerto The Cuckoo and the Nightingale in which birdsong is imitated in the upper registers of the organ. Also notable are his sixteen keyboard suites, especially The Harmonious Blacksmith.
Handel introduced previously uncommon musical instruments in his works: the viola d'amore and violetta marina (Orlando), the lute (Ode for St. Cecilia's Day), three trombones (Saul), clarinets or small high cornetts (Tamerlano), theorbo, French horn (Water Music), lyrichord, double bassoon, viola da gamba, bell chimes, positive organ, and harp (Giulio Cesare, Alexander's Feast).
Between 1787 and 1797 Samuel Arnold compiled a 180-volume collection of Handel's works—however it was far from complete. Also incomplete was the collection produced between 1843 and 1858 by the English Handel Society (found by Sir George Macfarren).
The 105-volume Händel-Gesellschaft ("German Handel Society") edition was published between 1858 and 1902—mainly due to the efforts of Friedrich Chrysander. For modern performance, the realisation of the basso continuo reflects 19th century practice. Vocal scores drawn from the edition were published by Novello in London, but some scores, such as the vocal score to Samson are incomplete.
The continuing Hallische Händel-Ausgabe edition was first inaugurated in 1955 in the Halle region in Saxony-Anhalt, Eastern Germany. It did not start as a critical edition, but after heavy criticism of the first volumes, which were performing editions without a critical apparatus (for example, the opera Serse was published with the title character recast as a tenor reflecting pre-war German practice), it repositioned itself as a critical edition. Influenced in part by cold-war realities, editorial work was inconsistent: misprints are found in abundance and editors failed to consult important sources. In 1985 a committee was formed to establish better standards for the edition. The unification of Germany in 1990 removed communication problems, and the volumes issued have since shown a significant improvement in standards.
Between 1978 and 1986 the German academic Bernd Baselt catalogued Handel's works in his Händel-Werke-Verzeichnis publication. The catalogue has achieved wide acceptance and is used as the modern numbering system, with each of Handel's works designated an "HWV" number, for example Messiah is catalogued as "HWV 56".
A Masquerade at the King's Theatre, Haymarket (c. 1724)
Handel's works were collected and preserved by two men in particular: Sir Samuel Hellier, a country squire whose musical acquisitions form the nucleus of the Shaw-Hellier Collection, and the abolitionist Granville Sharp. The catalogue accompanying the National Portrait Gallery exhibition marking the tercentenary of the composer's birth calls them two men of the late eighteenth century "who have left us solid evidence of the means by which they indulged their enthusiasm".
After his death, Handel's Italian operas fell into obscurity, except for selections such as the aria from Serse, "Ombra mai fù". The oratorios continued to be performed but not long after Handel's death they were thought to need some modernisation, and Mozart orchestrated a German version of Messiah and other works. Throughout the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, particularly in the Anglophone countries, his reputation rested primarily on his English oratorios, which were customarily performed by enormous choruses of amateur singers on solemn occasions.
Since the early music revival many of the forty-two operas he wrote have been performed in opera houses and concert halls.
Handel's music was studied by composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven
Recent decades have revived his secular cantatas and what one might call 'secular oratorios' or 'concert operas'. Of the former, Ode for St. Cecilia's Day (1739) (set to texts by John Dryden) and Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (1713) are noteworthy. For his secular oratorios, Handel turned to classical mythology for subjects, producing such works as Acis and Galatea (1719), Hercules (1745) and Semele (1744). These works have a close kinship with the sacred oratorios, particularly in the vocal writing for the English-language texts. They also share the lyrical and dramatic qualities of Handel's Italian operas. As such, they are sometimes performed onstage by small chamber ensembles. With the rediscovery of his theatrical works, Handel, in addition to his renown as instrumentalist, orchestral writer, and melodist, is now perceived as being one of opera's great musical dramatists.
A carved marble statue of Handel, created for the Vauxhall Gardens in 1738 by Louis-François Roubiliac, and now preserved in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Handel's work was edited by Samuel Arnold (40 vols., London, 1787–1797), and by Friedrich Chrysander, for the German Händel-Gesellschaft (105 vols., Leipzig, 1858–1902).
Händel adopted the spelling "George Frideric Handel" on his naturalisation as a British subject, and this spelling is generally used in English-speaking countries. The original form of his name, Georg Friedrich Händel, is generally used in Germany and elsewhere, but he is known as "Haendel" in France. Another composer with a similar name, Handl or Händl, was an Austrian from Carniola and is more commonly known as Jacobus Gallus.
Handel has generally been accorded high esteem by fellow composers, both in his own time and since.Bach attempted, unsuccessfully, to meet with Handel while he was visiting Halle.Mozart is reputed to have said of him, "Handel understands affect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt." To Beethoven he was "the master of us all... the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb". Beethoven emphasised above all the simplicity and popular appeal of Handel's music when he said, "Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means".
Handel Commemoration in Westminster Abbey, 1784
After Handel's death, many composers wrote works based on or inspired by his music. The first movement from Louis Spohr's Symphony No. 6, Op. 116, "The Age of Bach and Handel", resembles two melodies from Handel's Messiah. In 1797 Ludwig van Beethoven published the 12 Variations in G major on ‘See the conqu’ring hero comes’ from Judas Maccabaeus by Handel, for cello and piano. Guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani composed his Variations on a Theme by Handel, Op. 107 for guitar, based on Handel's Suite No. 5 in E major, HWV 430, for harpsichord. In 1861, using a theme from the second of Handel's harpsichord suites, Johannes Brahms wrote the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, one of his most successful works (praised by Richard Wagner). Several works by the French composer Félix-Alexandre Guilmant use Handel's themes, for example his March on a Theme by Handel uses a theme from Messiah. French composer and flautist Philippe Gaubert wrote his Petite marche for flute and piano based on the fourth movement of Handel's Trio Sonata, Op. 5, No. 2, HWV 397. Argentine composer Luis Gianneo composed his Variations on a Theme by Handel for piano. In 1911, Australian-born composer and pianist Percy Grainger based one of his most famous works on the final movement of Handel's Suite No. 5 in E major (just like Giuliani). He first wrote some variations on the theme, which he titled Variations on Handel's 'The Harmonious Blacksmith' . Then he used the first sixteen bars of his set of variations to create Handel in the Strand, one of his most beloved pieces, of which he made several versions (for example, the piano solo version from 1930). Arnold Schoenberg's Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra in B flat major (1933) was composed after Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op. 6/7.
Handel is honoured with a feast day on 28 July in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (US), with Johann Sebastian Bach and Henry Purcell; in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church, with J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schütz; and in the calendar of saints prepared by The Order of Saint Luke for the use of The United Methodist Church, with J.S. Bach.
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (Italian: [anˈtɔːnjo ˈluːtʃo viˈvaldi]; 4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741), nicknamed il Prete Rosso ("The Red Priest") because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, Catholic priest, and virtuosoviolinist, born in Venice. Recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas. His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.
Many of his compositions were written for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi had been employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi also had some success with stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI, Vivaldi moved to Vienna, hoping for preferment. The Emperor died soon after Vivaldi's arrival.
Though Vivaldi's music was well received during his lifetime, it later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first half of the 20th century. Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most popular and widely recorded of Baroque composers.
The church where Vivaldi was baptised: San Giovanni Battista in Bragora, Sestiere di Castello, Venice
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born in 1678 in Venice, then the capital of the Republic of Venice. He was baptized immediately after his birth at his home by the midwife, which led to a belief that his life was somehow in danger. Though not known for certain, the child's immediate baptism was most likely due either to his poor health or to an earthquake that shook the city that day. In the trauma of the earthquake, Vivaldi's mother may have dedicated him to the priesthood. Vivaldi's official church baptism took place two months later.
Vivaldi's parents were Giovanni Battista Vivaldi and Camilla Calicchio, as recorded in the register of San Giovanni in Bragora. Vivaldi had five siblings: Margarita Gabriela, Cecilia Maria, Bonaventura Tomaso, Zanetta Anna, and Francesco Gaetano. Giovanni Battista, who was a barber before becoming a professional violinist, taught Antonio to play the violin and then toured Venice playing the violin with his young son. Antonio was probably taught at an early age, judging by the extensive musical knowledge he had acquired by the age of 24, when he started working at the Ospedale della Pietà. Giovanni Battista was one of the founders of the Sovvegno dei musicisti di Santa Cecilia, an association of musicians.
The president of the Sovvegno was Giovanni Legrenzi, an early Baroque composer and the maestro di cappella at St Mark's Basilica. It is possible that Legrenzi gave the young Antonio his first lessons in composition. The Luxembourg scholar Walter Kolneder has discerned the influence of Legrenzi's style in Vivaldi's early liturgical work Laetatus sum (RV Anh 31), written in 1691 at the age of thirteen. Vivaldi's father may have been a composer himself: in 1689, an opera titled La Fedeltà sfortunata was composed by a Giovanni Battista Rossi - the name under which Vivaldi's father had joined the Sovvegno di Santa Cecilia.
Vivaldi's health was problematic. His symptoms, strettezza di petto ("tightness of the chest"), have been interpreted as a form of asthma. This did not prevent him from learning to play the violin, composing or taking part in musical activities, although it did stop him from playing wind instruments. In 1693, at the age of fifteen, he began studying to become a priest. He was ordained in 1703, aged 25. He was soon nicknamed il Prete Rosso, "The Red Priest", because of his red hair."Rosso" is Italian for "Red", and would have referred to the colour of his hair, a family trait. Not long after his ordination, in 1704, he was given a dispensation from celebrating Mass because of his ill health. Vivaldi only said Mass as a priest a few times. He appears to have withdrawn from priestly duties, but he remained a priest.
At the Conservatorio dell'Ospedale della Pietà
In September 1703, Vivaldi became maestro di violino (master of violin) at an orphanage called the Pio Ospedale della Pietà (Devout Hospital of Mercy) in Venice. While Vivaldi is most famous as a composer, he was regarded as an exceptional technical violinist as well. The German architect Johann Friedrich Armand von Uffenbach referred to Vivaldi as "the famous composer and violinist" and said that "Vivaldi played a solo accompaniment excellently, and at the conclusion he added a free fantasy [an improvised cadenza] which absolutely astounded me, for it is hardly possible that anyone has ever played, or ever will play, in such a fashion."
Vivaldi was only 25 when he started working at the Ospedale della Pietà. Over the next thirty years he composed most of his major works while working there. There were four similar institutions in Venice; their purpose was to give shelter and education to children who were abandoned or orphaned, or whose families could not support them. They were financed by funds provided by the Republic. The boys learned a trade and had to leave when they reached 15. The girls received a musical education, and the most talented stayed and became members of the Ospedale's renowned orchestra and choir.
Shortly after Vivaldi's appointment, the orphans began to gain appreciation and esteem abroad, too. Vivaldi wrote concertos, cantatas and sacred vocal music for them. These sacred works, which number over 60, are varied: they included solo motets and large-scale choral works for soloists, double chorus, and orchestra. In 1704, the position of teacher of viola all'inglese was added to his duties as violin instructor.The position of maestro di coro, which was at one time filled by Vivaldi, required a lot of time and work. He had to compose an oratorio or concerto at every feast and teach the orphans both music theory and how to play certain instruments.
His relationship with the board of directors of the Ospedale was often strained. The board had to take a vote every year on whether to keep a teacher. The vote on Vivaldi was seldom unanimous, and went 7 to 6 against him in 1709. After a year as a freelance musician, he was recalled by the Ospedale with a unanimous vote in 1711; clearly during his year's absence the board realized the importance of his role. He became responsible for all of the musical activity of the institution when he was promoted to maestro di' concerti (music director) in 1716.
In 1705, the first collection (Connor Cassara) of his works was published by Giuseppe Sala: his Opus 1 is a collection of 12 sonatas for two violins and basso continuo, in a conventional style. In 1709, a second collection of 12 sonatas for violin and basso continuo appeared, his Opus 2. A real breakthrough as a composer came with his first collection of 12 concerti for one, two, and four violins with strings, L'estro armonico Opus 3, which was published in Amsterdam in 1711 by Estienne Roger, dedicated to Grand Prince Ferdinand of Tuscany. The prince sponsored many musicians including Alessandro Scarlatti and George Frideric Handel. He was a musician himself, and Vivaldi probably met him in Venice.L'estro armonico was a resounding success all over Europe. It was followed in 1714 by La stravaganza Opus 4, a collection of concerti for solo violin and strings, dedicated to an old violin student of Vivaldi's, the Venetian noble Vettor Dolfin.
In February 1711, Vivaldi and his father traveled to Brescia, where his setting of the Stabat Mater (RV 621) was played as part of a religious festival. The work seems to have been written in haste: the string parts are simple, the music of the first three movements is repeated in the next three, and not all the text is set. Nevertheless, perhaps in part because of the forced essentiality of the music, the work is one of his early masterpieces.
Despite his frequent travels from 1718, the Pietà paid him 2 sequins to write two concerti a month for the orchestra and to rehearse with them at least five times when in Venice. The Pietà's records show that he was paid for 140 concerti between 1723 and 1733.
First edition of Juditha triumphans
In early 18th-century Venice, opera was the most popular musical entertainment. It proved most profitable for Vivaldi. There were several theaters competing for the public's attention. Vivaldi started his career as an opera composer as a sideline: his first opera, Ottone in villa (RV 729) was performed not in Venice, but at the Garzerie Theater in Vicenza in 1713. The following year, Vivaldi became the impresario of the Teatro Sant'Angelo in Venice, where his opera Orlando finto pazzo (RV 727) was performed. The work was not to the public's taste, and it closed after a couple of weeks, being replaced with a repeat of a different work already given the previous year.
In 1715, he presented Nerone fatto Cesare (RV 724, now lost), with music by seven different composers, of which he was the leader. The opera contained eleven arias, and was a success. In the late season, Vivaldi planned to put on an opera composed entirely by him, Arsilda, regina di Ponto (RV 700), but the state censor blocked the performance. The main character, Arsilda, falls in love with another woman, Lisea, who is pretending to be a man. Vivaldi got the censor to accept the opera the following year, and it was a resounding success.
At this period, the Pietà commissioned several liturgical works. The most important were two oratorios. Moyses Deus Pharaonis, (RV 643) is lost. The second, Juditha triumphans (RV 644), celebrates the victory of the Republic of Venice against the Turks and the recapture of the island of Corfù. Composed in 1716, it is one of his sacred masterpieces. All eleven singing parts were performed by girls of the Pietà, both the female and male roles. Many of the arias include parts for solo instruments—recorders, oboes, clarinets, violas d'amore, and mandolins—that showcased the range of talents of the girls.
Also in 1716, Vivaldi wrote and produced two more operas, L'incoronazione di Dario (RV 719) and La costanza trionfante degli amori e degli odi (RV 706). The latter was so popular that it performed two years later, re-edited and retitled Artabano re dei Parti (RV 701, now lost). It was also performed in Prague in 1732. In the following years, Vivaldi wrote several operas that were performed all over Italy.
His progressive operatic style caused him some trouble with more conservative musicians, like Benedetto Marcello, a magistrate and amateur musician who wrote a pamphlet denouncing him and his operas. The pamphlet, Il teatro alla moda, attacks Vivaldi without mentioning him directly. The cover drawing shows a boat (the Sant'Angelo), on the left end of which stands a little angel wearing a priest's hat and playing the violin. The Marcello family claimed ownership of the Teatro Sant'Angelo, and a long legal battle had been fought with the management for its restitution, without success. The obscure writing under the picture mentions non-existent places and names: ALDIVIVA is an anagram of A. Vivaldi.
In a letter written by Vivaldi to his patron Marchese Bentivoglio in 1737, he makes reference to his "94 operas". Only around 50 operas by Vivaldi have been discovered, and no other documentation of the remaining operas exists. Although Vivaldi may have exaggerated, in his dual role of composer and impresario it is plausible that he may either have written or been responsible for the production of as many as 94 operas during a career which by then had spanned almost 25 years. While Vivaldi certainly composed many operas in his time, he never reached the prominence of other great composers like Alessandro Scarlatti, Johann Adolph Hasse, Leonardo Leo, and Baldassare Galuppi, as evidenced by his inability to keep a production running for any extended period of time in any major opera house.
His most successful operas were La constanza trionfante and Farnace which garnered six revivals each.
Mantua and the Four Seasons
Caricature by P. L. Ghezzi, Rome (1723)
"La primavera" (Spring) – Movement 1: Allegro from The Four Seasons
A 2000 live performance by Wichita State University Chamber Players.
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In 1717 or 1718, Vivaldi was offered a new prestigious position as Maestro di Cappella of the court of prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, governor of Mantua. He moved there for three years and produced several operas, among which was Tito Manlio (RV 738). In 1721, he was in Milan, where he presented the pastoral drama La Silvia (RV 734, 9 arias survive). He visited Milan again the following year with the oratorio L'adorazione delli tre re magi al bambino Gesù (RV 645, also lost). In 1722 he moved to Rome, where he introduced his operas' new style. The new pope Benedict XIII invited Vivaldi to play for him. In 1725, Vivaldi returned to Venice, where he produced four operas in the same year.
During this period Vivaldi wrote the Four Seasons, four violin concertos depicting scenes appropriate for each season. Three of the concerti are of original conception, while the first, "Spring", borrows motifs from a Sinfonia in the first act of his contemporaneous opera "Il Giustino". The inspiration for the concertos was probably the countryside around Mantua. They were a revolution in musical conception: in them Vivaldi represented flowing creeks, singing birds (of different species, each specifically characterized), barking dogs, buzzing mosquitoes, crying shepherds, storms, drunken dancers, silent nights, hunting parties from both the hunters' and the prey's point of view, frozen landscapes, ice-skating children, and warming winter fires. Each concerto is associated with a sonnet, possibly by Vivaldi, describing the scenes depicted in the music. They were published as the first four concertos in a collection of twelve, Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, Opus 8, published in Amsterdam by Le Cène in 1725.
During his time in Mantua, Vivaldi became acquainted with an aspiring young singer Anna Tessieri Girò who was to become his student, protégée, and favorite prima donna. Anna, along with her older half-sister Paolina, became part of Vivaldi's entourage and regularly accompanied him on his many travels. There was speculation about the nature of Vivaldi's and Giro's relationship, but no evidence to indicate anything beyond friendship and professional collaboration. Although Vivaldi's relationship with Anna Girò was questioned, he adamantly denied any romantic relationship in a letter to his patron Bentivoglio dated 16 November 1737.
Later life and death
At the height of his career, Vivaldi received commissions from European nobility and royalty. The serenata (cantata) Gloria e Imeneo (RV 687) was commissioned in 1725 by the French ambassador to Venice in celebration of the marriage of Louis XV. The following year, another serenata, La Sena festeggiante (RV 694), was written for and premiered at the French embassy as well, celebrating the birth of the french royal princesses, Henriette and Louise Elisabeth. Vivaldi's Opus 9, La Cetra, was dedicated to EmperorCharles VI. In 1728, Vivaldi met the emperor while he was visiting Trieste to oversee the construction of a new port. Charles admired the music of the Red Priest so much that he is said to have spoken more with the composer during their one meeting than he spoke to his ministers in over two years. He gave Vivaldi the title of knight, a gold medal and an invitation to Vienna. Vivaldi gave Charles a manuscript copy of La Cetra, a set of concerti almost completely different from the set of the same title published as Opus 9. The printing was probably delayed, forcing Vivaldi to gather an improvised collection for the emperor.
Frontispiece of Il teatro alla moda
Accompanied by his father, Vivaldi traveled to Vienna and Prague in 1730, where his opera Farnace (RV 711) was presented. Some of his later operas were created in collaboration with two of Italy's major writers of the time. L'Olimpiade and Catone in Utica were written by Pietro Metastasio, the major representative of the Arcadian movement and court poet in Vienna. La Griselda was rewritten by the young Carlo Goldoni from an earlier libretto by Apostolo Zeno.
Like many composers of the time, the final years of Vivaldi's life found him in financial difficulties. His compositions were no longer held in such high esteem as they once were in Venice; changing musical tastes quickly made them outmoded. In response, Vivaldi chose to sell off sizeable numbers of his manuscripts at paltry prices to finance his migration to Vienna. The reasons for Vivaldi's departure from Venice are unclear, but it seems likely that, after the success of his meeting with Emperor Charles VI, he wished to take up the position of a composer in the imperial court. On his way to Vienna, Vivaldi may have stopped in Graz to see Anna Girò.
It is also likely that Vivaldi went to Vienna to stage operas, especially as he took up residence near the Kärntnertortheater. Shortly after his arrival in Vienna, Charles VI died, which left the composer without any royal protection or a steady source of income. Soon afterwards, Vivaldi became impoverished and died during the night of 27/28 July 1741, aged 63, of "internal infection", in a house owned by the widow of a Viennese saddlemaker. On 28 July he was buried in a simple grave in a burial ground that was owned by the public hospital fund. Vivaldi's funeral took place at St. Stephen's Cathedral, but the young Joseph Haydn had nothing to do with this burial, since no music was performed on that occasion. The cost of his funeral with a 'Kleingeläut' was 19 Gulden 45 Kreuzer which was rather expensive for the lowest class of burials.
He was buried next to Karlskirche, in an area which is now part of the site of the Technical Institute. The house where he lived in Vienna has since been destroyed; the Hotel Sacher is built on part of the site. Memorial plaques have been placed at both locations, as well as a Vivaldi "star" in the Viennese Musikmeile and a monument at the Rooseveltplatz.
Only three portraits of Vivaldi are known to survive: an engraving, an ink sketch and an oil painting. The engraving, by Francois Morellon La Cave, was made in 1725 and shows Vivaldi holding a sheet of music. The ink sketch was done by Ghezzi in 1723 and shows Vivaldi's head and shoulders in profile. The oil painting, which can be seen in the Liceo Musicale of Bologna, gives us possibly the most accurate picture and shows Vivaldi's red hair under his blond wig.
Style and influence
Vivaldi's music was innovative. He brightened the formal and rhythmic structure of the concerto, in which he looked for harmonic contrasts and innovative melodies and themes; many of his compositions are flamboyantly, almost playfully, exuberant.
Johann Sebastian Bach was deeply influenced by Vivaldi's concertos and arias (recalled in his St John Passion, St Matthew Passion, and cantatas). Bach transcribed six of Vivaldi's concerti for solo keyboard, three for organ, and one for four harpsichords, strings, and basso continuo (BWV 1065) based upon the concerto for four violins, two violas, cello, and basso continuo (RV 580).
During his lifetime, Vivaldi's popularity quickly made him famous in other countries, including France, where musical taste was less dictated by fashion than elsewhere, but after his death the composer's popularity dwindled. After the Baroque period, Vivaldi's published concerti became relatively unknown and were largely ignored. Even Vivaldi's most famous work, The Four Seasons, was at that time unknown in its original edition.
During the early 20th century, Fritz Kreisler's Concerto in C, in the Style of Vivaldi (which he passed off as an original Vivaldi work) helped revive Vivaldi's reputation. This spurred the French scholar Marc Pincherle to begin an academic study of Vivaldi's oeuvre. Many Vivaldi manuscripts were rediscovered, which were acquired by the Turin National University Library as a result of the generous sponsorship of Turinese businessmen Roberto Foa and Filippo Giordano, in memory of their sons. This led to a renewed interest in Vivaldi by, among others, Mario Rinaldi, Alfredo Casella, Ezra Pound, Olga Rudge, Desmond Chute, Arturo Toscanini, Arnold Schering and Louis Kaufman, all of whom were instrumental in the Vivaldi revival of the 20th century.
In 1926, in a monastery in Piedmont, researchers discovered fourteen folios of Vivaldi's work that were previously thought to have been lost during the Napoleonic Wars. Some missing volumes in the numbered set were discovered in the collections of the descendants of the Grand Duke Durazzo, who had acquired the monastery complex in the 18th century. The volumes contained 300 concertos, 19 operas and over 100 vocal-instrumental works.
The resurrection of Vivaldi's unpublished works in the 20th century is mostly due to the efforts of Alfredo Casella, who in 1939 organized the historic Vivaldi Week, in which the rediscovered Gloria (RV 589) and l'Olimpiade were revived. Since World War II, Vivaldi's compositions have enjoyed wide success. Historically informed performances, often on "original instruments", have increased Vivaldi's fame still further.
Recent rediscoveries of works by Vivaldi include two psalm settings of Nisi Dominus (RV 803, in eight movements) and Dixit Dominus (RV 807, in eleven movements). These were identified in 2003 and 2005 respectively, by the Australian scholar Janice Stockigt. The Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot described RV 807 as "arguably the best nonoperatic work from Vivaldi's pen to come to light since... ...the 1920s". Vivaldi's lost 1730 opera Argippo (RV 697) was rediscovered in 2006 by the harpsichordist and conductor Ondřej Macek, whose Hofmusici orchestra performed the work at Prague Castle on 3 May 2008, its first performance since 1730.
Lassus was born in Mons in the County of Hainaut (modern-day Belgium). Information about his early years is scanty, although some uncorroborated stories have survived, the most famous of which is that he was kidnapped three times because of the singular beauty of his singing voice. At the age of twelve, he left the Low Countries with Ferrante Gonzaga and went to Mantua, Sicily, and later Milan (from 1547 to 1549). While in Milan, he made the acquaintance of the madrigalist Spirito l'Hoste da Reggio, a formative influence on his early musical style.
He then worked as a singer and a composer for Costantino Castrioto in Naples in the early 1550s, and his first works are presumed to date from this time. Next he moved to Rome, where he worked for Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who maintained a household there; and in 1553, he became maestro di cappella of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, the ecumenical mother church of Rome and a spectacularly prestigious post indeed for a man only twenty-one years old. However, he stayed there for only a year. (Palestrina would assume this post a year later, in 1555.)
No solid evidence survives for his whereabouts in 1554, but there are contemporary claims that he traveled in France and England. In 1555 he returned to the Low Countries and had his early works published in Antwerp (1555–1556). In 1556 he joined the court of Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria, who was consciously attempting to create a musical establishment on a par with the major courts in Italy. Lassus was one of several Netherlanders to work there, and by far the most famous. He evidently was happy in Munich and decided to settle there. In 1558 he married Regina Wäckinger, the daughter of a maid of honor of the Duchess; they had two sons, both of whom became composers. By 1563 Lassus had been appointed maestro di cappella, succeeding Ludwig Daser in the post. Lassus remained in the service of Albrecht V and his heir, Wilhelm V, for the rest of his life.
By the 1560s Lassus had become quite famous, and composers began to go to Munich to study with him. Andrea Gabrieli went there in 1562, and possibly remained in the chapel for a year; Giovanni Gabrieli also possibly studied with him in the 1570s. His renown had spread outside of strictly musical circles, for in 1570 Emperor Maximilian II conferred nobility upon him, a rare circumstance for a composer; Pope Gregory XIII knighted him; and in 1571, and again in 1573, the king of France, Charles IX, invited him to visit. Some of these kings and aristocrats attempted to woo him away from Munich with more attractive offers, but Lassus was evidently more interested in the stability of his position, and the splendid performance opportunities of Albrecht's court, than in financial gain. "I do not want to leave my house, my garden, and the other good things in Munich," he wrote to the Duke of Electorate of Saxony in 1580, upon receiving an offer for a position in Dresden.
In the late 1570s and 1580s Lassus made several visits to Italy, where he encountered the most modern styles and trends. In Ferrara, the center of avant-garde activity, he doubtless heard the madrigals being composed for the d'Este court; however, his own style remained conservative and became simpler and more refined as he aged. In the 1590s his health began to decline, and he went to a doctor named Thomas Mermann for treatment of what was called "melancholia hypocondriaca", but he was still able to compose as well as travel occasionally. His final work was often considered one of his best pieces: an exquisite set of twenty-one madrigali spirituali known as the Lagrime di San Pietro ("Tears of St. Peter"), which he dedicated to Pope Clement VIII, and which was published posthumously in 1595. Lassus died in Munich on 14 June 1594, the same day that his employer decided to dismiss him for economic reasons; he never saw the letter.