Taught the violin his by father, Vivaldi trained for the priesthood in the family’s local parish of San Martino in the Castello district of Venice. Nevertheless, by the time he was ordained as a priest on 23 March 1703 (aged twenty-five) he had long since made his first documented public performance as an extra violinist at St Mark’s in Christmas services (in 1696). It was also in 1703 that he was recruited as a tutor of several string instruments at the Ospedale della Pietà, one of Venice’s four ‘Ospedali Grandi’ renowned for the advanced musical abilities of foundlings and orphans, and with which he had an on-and-off association for the rest of his life. By about 1706 ‘The Red Priest’ ceased to say Mass, later claiming that this was on account of chronic asthma—which, it must be noted, never stopped him from undertaking numerous rigorous journeys (to Florence, Rome, Prague and Vienna) in pursuit of opera commissions.
While it is tempting for us to assume that most of Vivaldi’s creative energies as a performer-composer were concentrated on either the Pietà or the opera house, many of his diverse concertos must have originated elsewhere. During his lifetime twelve sets of chamber and orchestral music were printed with opus numbers. The first two sets—the Op 1 trio sonatas (1705) and Op 2 violin sonatas (1709)—were both published in Venice, but thereafter all of Vivaldi’s printed collections were produced in Amsterdam. L’estro armonico (‘Harmonic whim’, Op 3, 1711) and La stravaganza (‘Extravagance’, Op 4, 1716) appear to have been close collaborations with the Huguenot refugee Estienne Roger (1665/6-1722). However, it appears that the next three Vivaldi opuses were organized by the engraver and printer without the composer’s involvement, but featuring the imprint of Roger’s daughter Jeanne (1701-1722): a collection of solo and trio sonatas (Op 5, 1716), six violin concertos (Op 6, 1719), and twelve concertos for various instruments (Op 7, 1720, featuring at least three spurious works).
A mandolin for all seasons: accompanied by accordion, harpsichord and a backing band drawn from the strings of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Jacob Reuven brings us Vivaldi’s and Piazzolla’s ‘Seasons’ as you’ve never heard them before.