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Vivaldi, Antonio (1678–1741)

VIVALDI, ANTONIO (16781741)

VIVALDI, ANTONIO (16781741), Venetian composer and violinist. Vivaldi produced numerous instrumental and vocal works during his lifetime, but he is best known for his concertos for a diverse group of instruments. An important and influential musician during his career, his music figured prominently in the baroque revival of the 1950s and 1960s.

Born in Venice on 4 March 1678, Vivaldi suffered from what was described as strettezza di petto (tightness of the chest), which was probably bronchial asthma. This illness plagued him throughout his life and exerted a strong influence on his personal and professional behavior. Vivaldi studied the violin with his father, and he was also trained as a priest, but his asthma prevented him from effectively saying mass. Because of the red hair he inherited from his father, Vivaldi was known throughout his career as il prete rosse ('The Red Priest').

In September 1703, Vivaldi accepted his first position, as maestro di violino for the Pio Ospedale della Pietà, one of four "hospitals" established in Venice to care for poor orphaned children, and he would remain intermittently associated with this institution for much of his career. Musical training was an integral part of the curriculum for the young girls at all of the ospedali, and Vivaldi's responsibilities included teaching violin, buying new instruments, and maintaining the collection. He was dismissed from this position on 24 February 1709the first of several dismissals and rehirings, largely the result of the precarious financial conditions at the hospitalbut used the freedom to meet both George Frideric Handel (16851759) and Domenico Scarlatti (16851757), who were in Venice at the time, and to begin writing operas. He returned to the Pietà in 1711, becoming maestro de' concerti in 1716, and successfully produced sacred and instrumental music, including trio sonatas, violin sonatas, the set of twelve concertos for one, two, and four violins called L'estro armonico (1711), and the oratorio Juditha Triumphans (1716).

Vivaldi spent 17181720 in Mantua, devoting himself to opera composition, and later traveled to Rome to produce three operas for the 1723 and 1724 carnivals, but he also wrote 140 concertos for the Pietà. Among these are Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (in which we find his most famous work, the violin concerto The Four Seasons [Le quatro stagione ]), La Cetra, flute and string concertos, and Il pastor fido.

Vivaldi's questionable relationship with the singer Anna Girò and her half-sister Paolina dates from this period. Vivaldi vigorously denied all accusations of sexual impropriety, but the widespread rumors had a detrimental effect on his career and reputation.

Between 1729 and 1735 Vivaldi traveled widely to Vienna, Prague, and several Italian cities to supervise productions of his operas, and he ultimately returned to Vienna at the age of sixty-two, in the hope of securing patronage from Charles VI. His efforts met with limited success, and he died on 28 July 1741, receiving a pauper's funeral at Vienna's Cathedral of St. Stephen.

Vivaldi was extraordinarily prolific, producing over five hundred concertos for almost every combination of instruments, solo and trio sonatas, instrumental sinfonias, and an impressive body of sacred music, including oratorios, masses and motets. Twenty-one of his operas have survived, at least in part, although their full artistic and dramatic power has yet to be evaluated.

Vivaldi's highly distinctive and recognizable musical style had a profound impact on his contemporaries and future composers such as Giuseppe Tartini (16921770). His greatest influence was in the development of the concerto. Vivaldi has been credited with inventing or at least regularizing "ritornello form," usually employed in fast movements, in which a "refrain" played by the full ensemble alternates with freer, modulatory episodes played by the solo instruments. His deft coordination of melody and harmony was much admired by Johann Sebastian Bach (16851750), who absorbed Italian style through his study and transcription of Vivaldi's concertos and trio-sonatas; this influence is particularly apparent in Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Other distinctive elements of Vivaldi's style include a fluid alternation of major and minor tonalities, a highly progressive use of dissonance and rich harmonies, and an innate melodic gift, particularly in slow movements. His vocal music has been criticized for perfunctory text-setting and violinistic vocal writing, but there are examples of great skill and inspiration in this genre, such as his Gloria (RV 588) or Magnificat (RV610), and his virtuosic and highly expressive motets for solo voice. Vivaldi was unquestionably a master orchestrator who explored the idiomatic potential of the many instruments for which he wrote. The Four Seasons, for example, not only illustrates his skill in writing for the virtuoso violinist, but also his ability to depict extramusical or programmatic ideas in a manner that anticipates the Romantic era.

See also Bach Family ; Music ; Venice .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Heller, Karl. Antonio Vivaldi: The Red Priest of Venice. Translated by David Marinelli. Portland, Ore., 1997. Translation of Antonio Vivaldi (1991).

Landon, H. C. Robbins. Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque. London, 1993.

Talbot, Michael. Antonio Vivaldi: A Guide to Research. New York, 1988.

. The Sacred Vocal Music of Antonio Vivaldi. Florence, 1995.

. Venetian Music in the Age of Antonio Vivaldi. Aldershot, U.K., 1999.

Wendy Heller, Mark Kroll

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Vivaldi, Antonio

Antonio Vivaldi

Born: March 4, 1678
Venice, Italy
Died: July 26, 1741
Vienna, Austria

Italian composer, violinist and priest

Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian violinist and composer whose concertospieces for one or more instrumentswere widely known and influential throughout Europe.

Childhood and early career

Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice, Italy, on March 4, 1678. His first music teacher was his father, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi. The elder Vivaldi was a well-respected violinist, employed at the church of St. Mark's. It is possible, though not proved, that as a boy Antonio also studied with the composer Giovanni Legrenzi (16261690).

Antonio was trained for a clerical (religious service) as well as a musical life. After going through the various introductory stages, he was ordained (authorized) a priest in March 1703. His active career, however, was devoted to music. In the autumn of 1703 he was appointed as a violin teacher at the Ospitale della Pieta in Venice. A few years later he was made conductor of the orchestra at the same institution. Under Vivaldi's direction, this orchestra gave many brilliant concerts and achieved an international reputation.

Vivaldi remained at the Pietà until 1740. But his long years there were broken by the numerous trips he took, for professional purposes, to Italian and foreign cities. He went, among other places, to Vienna, Italy, from 1729 to 1730 and to Amsterdam, Netherlands, from 1737 to 1738. Within Italy he traveled to various cities to direct performances of his operas. He left Venice for the last time in 1740. He died in Vienna on July 26 or 27, 1741.

Vivaldi's music

Vivaldi was very productive in vocal and instrumental music, sacred and secular (nonreligious). According to the latest research, he composed over seven hundred piecesranging from sonatas (instrumental compositions usually with three or four movements) and operas (musical dramas consisting of vocal and instrumental pieces) to concertos (musical compositions for one or two vocal performers set against a full orchestra).

Today the vocal music of Vivaldi is little known. But in his own day he was famous and successful as an opera composer. Most of his operas were written for Venice, but some were performed throughout Italy in Rome, Florence, Verona, Vicenza, Ancona, and Mantua.

Vivaldi was also one of the great eighteenth century violin virtuosos, or musicians with superb ability. This virtuosity is reflected in his music, which made new demands on violin technique. In his instrumental works he naturally favored the violin. He wrote the majority of his sonatas for one or two violins and thorough-bass. Of his concertos, 221 are for solo violin and orchestra. Other concertos are for a variety of solo instruments, including the flute, the clarinet, the trumpet, and the mandolin. He also wrote concertos for several solo instruments, concerti grossi, and concertos for full orchestra. The concerto grosso features a small group of solo players, set against the full orchestra. The concerto for orchestra features differences of style rather than differences of instruments.

Orchestral music

Vivaldi's concertos are generally in three movements, arranged in the order of fast, slow, fast. The two outer movements are in the same key; the middle movement is in the same key or in a closely related key. Within movements, the music proceeds on the principle of alternation: passages for the solo instrument(s) alternate with passages for the full orchestra. The solo instrument may extend the material played by the orchestra, or it may play quite different material of its own. In either case, the alternation between soloist and orchestra builds up a tension that can be very dramatic.

The orchestra in Vivaldi's time was different, of course, from a modern one in its size and constitution. Although winds were sometimes called for, strings constituted the main body of players. In a Vivaldi concerto, the orchestra is essentially a string orchestra, with one or two harpsichords or organs to play the thorough-bass.

Some of Vivaldi's concertos are pieces of program music, for they give musical descriptions of events or natural scenes. The Seasons, for instance, consists of four concertos representing the four seasons. But in his concertos the "program" does not determine the formal structure of the music. Some musical material may imitate the call of a bird or the rustling of leaves; but the formal plan of the concerto is maintained.

Vivaldi's concertos were widely known during and after his lifetime. They were copied and admired by another musician, Johann Sebastian Bach (16851750). In musical Europe of the eighteenth century Vivaldi was one of the great names.

For More Information

Heller, Karl. Antonio Vivaldi: The Red Priest of Venice. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1997.

Kolneder, Walter. Antonio Vivaldi: His Life and Work. Edited by Bill Hopkins. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970.

Landon, H. C. Robbins. Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Morgenstern, Sheldon. No Vivaldi in the Garage: A Requiem for Classical Music in North America. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2001.

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Vivaldi, Antonio

Vivaldi, Antonio (b Venice, 1678; d Vienna, 1741). It. composer and violinist. Son of violinist in orch. of St Mark's, Venice, under Legrenzi. Taught by father. Entered church, becoming priest 1703, though after 2 years never said Mass because of congenital chest complaint. Taught vn. at orphanage (Ospedale della Pietà) from 1703 and gave recitals. Pubd. trio sonatas, Op.1, 1705 and vn. sonatas, Op.2, 1709. First opera, Ottone in villa, prod. Vicenza 1713; first Venetian opera, Orlando finto pazzo, 1714. Was also operatic impresario in Venice and cond. and played vn. in opera perfs. Spent 3 years in service of Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt in Mantua, probably 1719–21. Between 1722 and 1725, wrote operas for Mantua, Vicenza, Milan, and Rome. His famous Op.8, incl. Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons), was pubd. 1725. By this time, Vivaldi was known and admired throughout Europe. In 1734 first collaborated with librettist Goldoni (1709–93). In 1737 prod. of a new Vivaldi opera at Ferrara was forbidden by papal authorities on ground that Vivaldi was a priest who did not say Mass and had a relationship with a woman singer. In 1738, visited Amsterdam, where his mus. had been pubd. since 1711, for royal th. centenary celebrations—his reputation stood higher in Fr., Holland, and Eng. in his lifetime than it did in Venice. Despite intermittent disputes over the years, Vivaldi was still maestro at the Pietà and was still writing cantatas for perf. there in 1740. In 1741 he decided to leave Venice for Vienna, presumably in search of some court appointment, but died there, being buried in a pauper's grave.

 Among contemporaries who appreciated Vivaldi was J. S. Bach, who transcr. 10 Vivaldi concs. as hpd. or org. concs. Like Bach's, Vivaldi's mus. fell out of favour for many years, but the 20th cent., in particular since the revival of interest in authentic methods of performing baroque mus., has seen it re-est. Once regarded merely as the composer of works for str., his genius as an opera composer is now recognized (he said he wrote 94, but fewer than 50 are extant) as well as the Venetian splendour of his church mus. No composer did more to establish the vc. as a solo instr., and he displayed a keen interest in the use of unusual instr.: it is the infinite variety and invention of his work that has made it so beloved 300 years after his birth. There have been several catalogues of his work, the most recent (Leipzig 1974) by Peter Ryom (works are numbered with the prefix RV = Ryom-Verzeichnis). Prin. works:OPERAS: Bajazet (Tamerlano) (1735); Catone in Utica (1737); Dorilla in Tempe (1726); Ercole sul Termodonte (1723); Farnace (1727); La fida ninfa (1732); Il Giustino (1724); Griselda (1735); L'incoronazione di Dario (1716); L'Olimpiade (1734); Orlando finto pazzo (1714); Orlando furioso (1727); Ottone in villa (1713); Rosilena ed Oronta (1728); Rosmira (1738); Il Teuzzone (1719); Tito Manlio (1719); La verità in cimento (1720).PUBLISHED WORKS IN HIS LIFETIME: Op.1, 12 sonatas for 2 vn. and basso continuo (1705); Op.2, 12 sonatas for vn. and basso continuo (1709); Op.3, L'estro armonico (Harmonic inspiration), 12 concs. for various combinations (4 vn., 4 vn. and vc., etc.) (1711); Op.4, La stravaganza (The extraordinary), 12 vn. concs. (c.1714); Op.5 (2nd part of Op.2), 4 sonatas for vn. and 2 sonatas for 2 vn. and basso continuo (1716); Op.6, 6 vn. concs. (1716–21); Op.7, 2 ob. concs. and 10 vn. concs. (1716–21); Op.8, Il cimento dell’ armonia e dell’ inventione (The Contest between Harmony and Invention), 12 vn. concs., the first 4, in E, G minor, F, and F minor being known as The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni) (1725); Op.9, La cetra (The lyre), 11 vn. concs. and 1 for 2 vn. (1727); Op.10, 6 fl. concs. (c.1728); Op.11, 5 vn. concs., 1 ob. conc. (1729); Op.12, 5 vn. concs. and 1 without solo (1729); Op.13, Il pastor fido (The Faithful Shepherd), 6 sonatas for musette, viella, recorder, ob. or vn., and basso continuo (1737, doubtful authenticity).

 The rest of Vivaldi's instr. output is so vast that it can only be summarized:

 10 sonatas, vc., basso continuo; 28 sonatas, vn., basso continuo; 4 sonatas, fl., basso continuo; sonatas, 2 vn., basso continuo; concs. for various instr. (fl., ob., recorders, vns., bn., etc.) and basso continuo; over 60 concs., sinfonias, and sonatas for str. and basso continuo; 170 concs. and sinfonias for vn., orch., and basso continuo; 7 concs. for viola d'amore; 28 vc. concs.; mandolin conc.; 9 fl. concs.; 2 recorder concs.; 14 ob. concs.; over 40 bn. concs.; many concs. for 2 vn., 2 vc., 2 mandolins, 2 ob., 2 hn., 2 tpt., etc.SACRED MUSIC: Mass; Kyrie for double ch.; 3 Glorias; 2 Dixit Dominus; 3 Laudate pueri; 2 Magnificat; 3 Salve Regina; Stabat Mater; Juditha triumphans (oratorio, Venice 1716); also many secular cantatas, etc.

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Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was an Italian violinist and composer whose concertos were widely known and influential throughout Europe.

Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice on March 4, 1678. His first music teacher was his father, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi. The elder Vivaldi was a well-respected violinist, employed at the church of St. Mark's. It is possible, though not proved, that as a boy Antonio also studied with the composer Giovanni Legrenzi.

Antonio was trained for a clerical as well as a musical life. After going through the various preliminary stages, he was ordained a priest in March 1703. (He was later nicknamed "the red priest" because he was redheaded.) His active career, however, was devoted to music. In the autumn of 1703 he was appointed a violin teacher at the Ospitale della Pieta‧ in Venice. A few years later he was made conductor of the orchestra at the same institution. Under Vivaldi's direction, this orchestra gave many brilliant concerts and achieved an international reputation.

Vivaldi remained at the Pieta‧ until 1740. But his long years there were broken by the numerous trips he took, for professional purposes, to Italian and foreign cities. He went, among other places, to Vienna in 1729-1730 and to Amsterdam in 1737-1738. Within Italy he traveled to various cities to direct performances of his operas. He left Venice for the last time in 1740. He died in Vienna on July 26 or 27, 1741.

Vivaldi was prolific in vocal and instrumental music, sacred and secular. According to the latest research, his compositions may be numbered as follows, though not all these compositions are preserved: 48 operas (some in collaboration with other composers); 59 secular cantatas and serenatas; about 100 separate arias (but these are no doubt from operas); two oratorios; 60 other works of vocal sacred music (motets, hymns, Mass movements); 78 sonatas; 21 sinfonias; one other instrumental work; and 456 concertos.

Today the vocal music of Vivaldi is little known. But in his own day he was famous and successful as an opera composer. Most of his operas were written for Venice, but some were commissioned for performance in Rome, Florence, Verona, Vicenza, Ancona, and Mantua.

Vivaldi was also one of the great violin virtuosos of his time. This virtuosity is reflected in his music, which made new demands on violin technique. In his instrumental works he naturally favored the violin. He wrote the majority of his sonatas for one or two violins and thorough-bass. Of his concertos, 221 are for solo violin and orchestra. Other concertos are for a variety of solo instruments: recorder, flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, viola d'amore, and mandolin. He also wrote concertos for several solo instruments, concerti grossi, and concertos for full orchestra. The concerto grosso features a small group of solo players, set in contrast to the full orchestra. The concerto for orchestra features contrasts of style rather than contrasts of instruments.

Vivaldi's concertos are generally in three movements, arranged in the order of fast, slow, fast. The two outer movements are in the same key; the middle movement is in the same key or in a closely related key. Within movements, the music proceeds on the principle of alternation: passages for the solo instrument (s) alternate with passages for the full orchestra. The solo instrument may elaborate on the material played by the orchestra, or it may play quite different material of its own. In either case, the alternation between soloist and orchestra builds up a tension which can be very dramatic.

The orchestra in Vivaldi's time was different, of course, from a modern one in its size and constitution. Although winds were sometimes called for, strings constituted the main body of players. In a Vivaldi concerto, the orchestra is essentially a string orchestra, with one or two harpsichords or organs to play the thorough-bass.

Some of Vivaldi's concertos are pieces of program music, for they give musical descriptions of events or natural scenes. The Seasons, for instance, consists of four concertos representing the four seasons. But in his concertos the "program" does not determine the formal structure of the music. Some musical material may imitate the call of a bird or the rustling of leaves; but the formal plan of the concerto is maintained.

Vivaldi's concertos were widely known during and after his lifetime. They were copied and admired by a colleague no less distinguished than Johann Sebastian Bach. In musical Europe of the 18th century Vivaldi was one of the great names.

Further Reading

There are two books in English on the life and works of Vivaldi: Marc Pincherle, Vivaldi: Genius of the Baroque (1955; trans. 1957), and Walter Kolneder, Antonio Vivaldi: His Life and Work (1965; trans. 1971). For the historical background, Donald Jay Grout, A History of Western Music (1960), is recommended. □

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Vivaldi, Antonio

Antonio Vivaldi (äntô´nyō vēväl´dē), 1678–1741, Italian composer. He was the greatest master of Italian baroque, particularly of violin music and the concerto grosso. Vivaldi received his early training from his father, a violinist at St. Mark's, Venice, and later studied with Giovanni Legrenzi. Ordained a priest in 1703, Vivaldi spent most of his life after 1709 in Venice, teaching and playing the violin and writing music for the Pietà, one of Venice's four music conservatories for orphaned girls. Although he produced quantities of vocal music (including 46 operas), he is remembered chiefly for his instrumental music—sonatas; concerti grossi, including four famous ones known as The Four Seasons; and 447 concertos for violin and other instruments. Vivaldi's style is characterized by driving rhythm, clarity, and lyrical melody. He helped standardize the three-movement concerto form later used by J. S. Bach and others. Vivaldi's brilliant allegros and impassioned slow movements were greatly admired by Bach, who arranged 10 of the solo concertos for other instruments. After Vivaldi's death his music was forgotten, but in the early 20th cent. his works were rediscovered.

See biographies by W. Kolneder (tr. 1971) and A. Kendall (exp. ed. 1989).

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Vivaldi, Antonio

Vivaldi, Antonio (1675–1741) Italian composer. A master of the concerto and a virtuoso violinist, Vivaldi helped to standardize the three-movement concerto form and to develop the concerto grosso (a concerto for two or more solo instruments). His best-known work is The Four Seasons (1725). He also composed sacred vocal music and c.50 operas, of which 20 survive.

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