Antonio Lucio Vivaldi

The Divertissement Chamber Orchestra and Ilya Ioff, Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Storm”, From “Summer” of the “Four Seasons”

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque musical composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and priest. Born in March of 1678 in Venice, he is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, whose influence even during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He composed many instrumental concertos for the violin and a variety of other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and more than forty operas.

Many of his compositions were written for the all-female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi, who had been ordained as a Catholic priest, was employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi received many commissions and had some success with expensive stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. His innovative compositions brightened the formal and rhythmic structure of the concerto with their harmonic contrasts and innovative themes. 

Between 1717 and 1718, Vivaldi was offered a prestigious new position as Maestro di Cappella of the court of Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, governor of Mantua, in the northwest of Italy. He moved there for three years and produced several operas, including the 1719 “Tito Manlio”, a three-act opera to celebrate the upcoming marriage of the governor. Vivaldi was in Milan in 1721, where he presented the pastoral drama “La Silviia”, of which nine arias have survived. He moved to Rome, where he introduced a new style for his operas, performing one of his operas for the new pope Benedict XIII before returning to Venice.

In 1725, Vivaldi composed the “Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons)”, a musical conception of four violin concertos with varied textures, each representing its respective season. Though three of the concertos are wholly original, the first, “Spring”, borrows motifs from a Sinfonia in the first act of Vivaldi’s contemporaneous opera “Il Giustino”. All of the concertos are associated with a sonnet, possibly written by Vivaldi, describing the scenes depicted in the music.

Each of Vivaldi’s four concertos is in three movements, with the slow movement positioned between two faster ones, all varying in tempos according to the season portrayed. At the time of “Four Seasons” composition,  the modern solo-form of the concerto, typically a solo instrument with an accompanying orchestra, had not yet been established. Vivaldi’s original arrangement for a solo violin with a string quartet and basso continuo evolved the form of the concerto, The “Four Seasons”, the best known of Vivaldi’s work, was published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concertos entitled “Il Cimento dell’ Armonia i dell’ Inventione” with a dedication to his patron Count Václav Morzin of Vrchilabí.

Note: The “Storm” is part of the “Summer” concerto of  Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, with its final movement evoking a thunderstorm. In the accompanying music video, the arrangement is played by The Divertissement Chamber Orchestra with a solo  by Ilya Ioff, violinist and professor at the St Petersburg State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire.

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