Monday, July 18, 2011

Vivaldi's Women

The documentary "Vivaldi's Women" on BBC Four presented the story of an extraordinary creative partnership between one of history's great composers–Antonio Vivaldi–and an all-female orchestra and choir. In the early 18th century, Father Antonio Vivaldi was a violin teacher, musical director, musical instrument procurer and in-house composer for a Venetian institution called La Pietà, a home for children who had been abandoned at birth.

The institution had its own all-female orchestra and choir who provided sacred "entertainment" in the church for the visiting "Grand Tourists". The unique creative relationship that Vivaldi formed with these women resulted in what many believe to be one of the finest performing groups of all time.

Further Vivaldi reading:

Antonio Vivaldi and His Sacred Music, by William Peter Mahrt [PDF]
Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque, by H. C. Robbins Landon [Amazon]


  1. Great stuff--thanks for posting this. I've always thought Vivaldi's impact on music has been underrated by, as the lady says, the bad joke that he wrote the same concerto 500 times. (I only have 100 Vivaldi "songs" on my iPod).

  2. I don't think Vivaldi is quite properly credited either, though as I understand it much of his work has only rather recently (in the 20th century) been recovered. (I'm not sure if that's a sufficient explanation.) I have a moderate (40 CD) "Brilliant Classics" set of Vivaldi which includes quite a few concertos and I much like it. I think it was Charles Rosen who praised his themes and melody though not always his development, which is probably fair. Actually I'd like really like to have seen more programmatic music since the Four Seasons are so wonderful. It doesn't seem to have become the range until Beethoven did it!

    On the other hand, though, his works for oboe, cello, and mandolin and the concertos for "various instruments" are probably quite overlooked because of the Four Seasons.

    Perhaps part of the problem (in addition to the similarities) is there are just so many we can't quite wrap our heads around them like one can around even 30 Mozart concertos: