Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was an Italian-born violinist, teacher, priest, and Baroque composer of opera, concerti, cantatas, sinfonias, sonatas, secular and sacred works.  More popular outside of Italy during his time, and virtually lost to obscurity until the 20th century, Vivaldi is retrospectively viewed as a paragon of the Baroque era by his vast output of concerti for various solo instruments and combinations of solo instruments.

Prematurely born during an earthquake in Venice, Vivaldi was quickly baptized and may subsequently have been promised to the priesthood.  The sickly child, suffering from either lifelong asthma or angina, learned violin from his red-haired father and came to be known as "il Prete Rosso" (The Red Priest) for this inherited resemblance.

in 1703 Vivaldi was appointed master of violin at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà orphanage, where he served off and on for thirty years and composed most of his key works (often performed by the orphanage's young charges, who began to gain notoriety abroad shortly after).  These include the Four Concertos for Violin, Op. 8 "Four Seasons", the Concerto for Violin in E flat major, Op. 8 no 5/RV 253 "La tempesta di mare", and the Gloria in D major, RV 589.

Further insights:

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was an Italian violinist, conductor, teacher, and composer born on March 4, 1678 (7 years before Bach was born). He was nicknamed the Red Priest because he was ordained while in his early twenties (though he almost never served as such) and he had reddish hair. He wrote over 500 concerti (approximately 350 of these are for solo instrument and strings, and of these about 230 are for violin; the others are for bassoon, cello, oboe, flute, viola d'amore, recorder, lute, and mandolin. Approximately 40 concerti are for two instruments and strings, and approximately 30 are for three or more instruments and strings), 46 operas, 73 sonatas, lots of chamber music, and lots of sacred music. His most famous work is The Four Seasons, written in 1723. Vivaldi died in July, 1741 (Bach would live another nine years.)

After his death, his legacy languished in obscurity for the better part of 200 years until interest in his works was revived by musicians, scholars, and the advent of recording technology.  In addition to his instrumental works, his Gloria in D major is a choral favorite.
This biography was most recently edited by...
Simeon - 10 Feb 2010
steven - 22 Sep 2009
violinhunter - 8 May 2009