Antonio Vivaldi was the most influential Italian composer of his generation who made a substantial contribution to musical style, violin technique, orchestration and orchestral programme music.
Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678. He learned violin from his father and became a priest in 1703. He was known as ‘il prete rosso’, ‘the red priest’ because of his hair colour, which was a family characteristic, his father being known as professionally as Rossi for the same reason. Later that same year, he was appointed violin teacher at the Pio Ospidale della Pietá, and he composed most of his major works while employed there. It was an orphanage, and at first he specialised in teaching girls who showed decent aptitude. Regular musical performance at the Pietá were a focal point for the nobility of Venice, as well as for foreign visitors. In early his years of employment there, Vivaldi was responsible for cultivating a group of very capable musicians and supplying them with ensemble works to perform. Meanwhile, he sought more and more recognition as a composer and was eventually commissioned to compose an entire mass, a vespers, an oratorio and over 30 motets, before simultaneously finding work elsewhere.
In 1711, Vivaldi had his L’estro armonico op.3 published by the Amsterdam publisher Etienne Roger, which was to become some of the most influential music in the early half of the 18th century. The publication consisted of 12 concertos for one, two and four solo violins and led to a huge demand for Italian instrumental music in Northern Europe, particularly in Germany. Bach transcribed several of these concertos for keyboard and various touring German musicians met Vivaldi on their visits.