Thanks to Father Antonio Vivaldi, “the Red Priest”

Around this time of the year, my appreciation for classical music rises to the surface. I don’t know if it is because of the change of seasons, or whether it is the “fall back” move on our clocks. Perhaps it’s because the days are getting shorter and the nights longer now that “daylight savings time” is over.

I’m a simple man, and I would be quickly found a liar if I tried to buffalo you with the idea that I am a man who is a well-educated, and throughly cultured, connoisseur of classical music. No. I’m a poor hick who only knows what he likes. And I’ve always liked Vivaldi and his Four Seasons. I do know that his music came before Bach, Handel, and Beethoven, and that is about it.

But here is what prompted this post: yesterday morning, while preparing to head to Mass, I heard a snippet of a program on NPR where the announcer mentioned that Vivaldi had been “in the clergy.”

Whaat?! It didn’t take me long to determine that given the time frame, and the fact that he was an Italian, that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest. And due to his being a red-head, he was given the nick-name of “the Red Priest.”

A quick check of the internet later and sure enough, seemingly the whole world knows that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest, except me. Somehow I missed hearing about that in music class, and a part of me thinks this is the result of a cover-up. But as I always say, let the sun shine in.

Father Antonio was ordained in 1703 and it seems like he only performed his clerical duties for a short while due to ill health.  He suffered from asthma, among other ailments.

Here is the trailer of a movie based on Vivaldi’s early career. Truthfully, I don’t know if this film ever made it into the theaters or even if it ever hit the small screen instead. But, as you can see, he is wearing a collar throughout. And you get the distinct impression that the good looking red-head had a problem in common with modern-day musicians as well.

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Andante from Concerto In D Minor for 2 Mandolins. But instead of two mandolins, we get Yo-Yo Ma on cello and Bobby McFerran playing his voice box. This is pretty amazing.

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Double Concerto for Two Cellos. This is a beautiful piece Vivaldi wrote for cellos. And this is a very clever presentation with Rebecca Roundman “using multi-tracking. Rebecca plays the two solo cellos parts, the violin 1 part, the violin 2 part, the viola part (not shown), the section cello part and the bass part.” All I can say is, “bravo!”

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Vivaldi did a lot more than this too. Operas and concertos. Sacred and choral music. Like just about any other MfM post though, we are just scratching the surface of his work here. Do you believe he died a pauper? I haven’t read his biography yet (where do you start?) but maybe, just maybe, he wanted to die in that state.

  • Mary P.

    Frank, I apologize for being away. Life has been … well… I haven't dropped any balls, but I'm amazed by how busy it has been. I checked in this morning, and what a prize I found! I love this post! Thank you so much. I had no idea Vivaldi was a priest. And his struggles, too! He was so human. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Ain't it grand? Part of the mystery of unreported history.

  • Anonymous

    I have also heard that Vivaldi left Mass because of a medical condition, but the 'rumor' got around that it was because of a musical inspiration….

  • Sandy

    Hey, inspiration waits for no one! Delighted also at the mention of Bobby Mcferrin, who is so much more than "Don't Worry Be Happy." <3

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15292156826231664316 pennyyak

    Whoa! Never heard of this. Very cool.

  • Amy R

    and I'm another one who has loved Vivaldi's music all my life – but this is the first I've heard that he was also a Catholic priest. Glory to God!

  • Anonymous

    wow! amazing tribute to the man! :) I love vivaldi's music, particularly his four seasons. Such an inspiring priest!


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