Antonio Vivaldi – The Red Priest

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born in the Castello district of Venice on March 4, 1678. By the time he was 15 he was studying to become a priest, a career that would never last. He also received a great amount of musical training, specifically the violin, from his father Giovanni Battista Vivaldi. After leaving the priesthood due to health problems, he went on to quickly become a well known force of nature in the baroque period. In fact Vivaldi took new forms to new heights and made the concerto form what it was during that time, greatly influencing other composers of the period. One of these being Johann Sebastian Bach who looked upon Vivaldi with great admiration. Sadly by the late 1730s Vivaldi’s music was no longer the “in thing”. He began selling his compositions but never got what he wanted for them, and steadily over the years he began to grow more and more destitute. In 1740, at age 62, Vivaldi moved to Vienna, Austria in the hopes that his music might be promoted by a potential patron and admirer, Emperor Charles VI. But as fate would have it the emperor died shortly after his arrival, dashing any hopes of Vivaldi reigniting his fame and fortune. At the same time a war was brewing, the War of Austrian Succession which would run from 1740 to 1748, which created an atmosphere of distrust and friction among the population. Vivaldi, by 1741, was broke and living in a poor house. During his entire life he had suffered from asthma and one summer day he began to come down with an illness, which was likely influenza and/or pneumonia. Considering his already impacted airways, Vivaldi suffered greatly and on the 27th or 28th of July he passed away at the age of 63. Sadly, like Mozart, Vivaldi’s grave has been lost. He is buried somewhere beneath what is the Vienna University of Technology, which was built over top of the Spitaller Gottsacker cemetery in 1818. The cemetery had been abandoned in 1783 and Vivaldi’s grave was unmarked at the time, so his remains were not transferred to the new cemetery.

From the day of his death onward Vivaldi’s music faded into non-existence. It was never performed and most of the manuscripts that had been copied and shared with the rich patrons of his time vanished into dark attics and cellars. By the mid 18th century Vivaldi was an unknown, as if he had never been born.

Vivaldi wrote over 800 works ranging from concertos to operas, from cantatas to sonatas, from liturgical works to great choral works. Of these the only work that is most commonly known is from his opus 8, “Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’invenzione”/”The Test of Harmony and Invention”. The first four concerti from this work are known as “The Four Seasons”, and are undeniably one of the most overplayed, run into the ground, works in the history of classical music. Most people don’t know Vivaldi for anything else, some may even think that is all he ever wrote. It’s definitely a sad state of affairs, for the bulk of Vivaldi’s music is amazing and incredible. The Four Seasons, while wild and extravagant for the period, are hardly a valid example of Vivaldi’s greatness.

What if you had been alive before 1926? You would never have known about Vivaldi, he didn’t exist. However it was in 1926 that a school run by an order of monks discovered a collection of original Vivaldi compositions. These were sent to the Turin National University Library and the musicologists there were shocked and amazed to have found a previously unknown composer by the name of Antonio Vivaldi. Over the next several years these researchers, coupled with philanthropists, worked overtime to find every scrap of music they could by him. In 1939 a composer and pianist named Alfredo Casella organized Vivaldi Week, which was the spark that lit the Vivaldi flame. Because of all this hard and diligent work, we now can enjoy an immense collection of Vivaldi’s works. Sadly some have been lost with the passage of time, but the man wrote so much stuff that it has made up for some of the losses.

So what’s my point with regard to this history lesson about Vivaldi? The point is to make it clear, dear reader, that Antonio Vivaldi was an incredibly talented and influential man who composed some amazing music, and that the overplayed Four Seasons are not all he wrote. So I implore you, if you have any interest in learning about this man through his music, to go explore what is available on Apple Music or Spotify. The record label Naïve has released (and continues to do so) an immense Vivaldi Collection, which is performed by some of the greatest and most admired baroque music groups in Europe.

It is truly heartbreaking to think Antonio never got to see his music regain it’s previous admiration. But we can honor him and his life by just listening and giving thanks that this lost composer was found, to the enrichment of classical music, and ears everywhere who long to hear his music.

 

Sources:

“The Red Priest – The Life of Antonio Vivaldi”, James Fritz – Bookcaps Study Guides, 2013

“Antonio Vivaldi” Findagrave.com, “www.findagrave.com/memorial/9963/antonio-vivaldi”, Bobb Edwards

“The Vivaldi Compendium”, Michael Talbot, The Boydell Press, 2011

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Introducing PolarBearPoet

For over twenty years I have dabbled in poetry and creative writing. I started uploading the bulk of works from all these years to a new blog several days ago, and now they’re online for your enjoyment – head over to: http://polarbearpoet.wordpress.com

I hope you will drop by and read the works I have done over those 20+ years. If anything new comes about, it will be posted there.

How many times?

How many times have I stared off into the distance, remembering all that happened? How many times have the memories of those I’ve lost come crashing back into my mind, spawning a torrent of sorrow and tears? How many times have I wished I had said so many things to them before they died? How many times have I played the “what if” game to change the outcome of what happened? How many times have I wished death took a physical form that I could take my revenge upon? How many times have I seen their faces, heard their voices, in my dreams?

Far too often. Far too many times.

I can never fully turn my gaze forward, for what is left behind me beckons and calls me, taunting me, haunting me. That which I dreaded all of my life has come to pass, with greater injury and malice than I ever imagined. For I not only have lost my parents, but my sister too. So now here I am, the lone survivor, cast into the lonely ocean of tears. Spending every waking moment alone, with no-one to live for. My boat is tossed upon the waves of yesterday and I fight to hold on with every ounce of strength. No island, no sanctuary, can bring the peace I seek. The ghosts of my family follow me everywhere I go, and from that gray realm of death they look upon me as I suffer in torment and sorrow. They look upon me not with anger, malice, or hatred – but with love. For they know the weight of this lonely life that crushes my heart. They know how many times I have stared off into the distance, remembering all that happened. They know how many times those memories of loss have come crashing back into my mind, spawning a torrent of sorrow and tears. They know how many times I have wished I said so many things to them before they died. They know how many times I’ve played the “what if” game, hoping to change the past. They know how many times I have wished death took a physical form that I could take my revenge upon. They know how many times I have seen their faces, heard their voices, in my dreams.

Far too often. Far too many times.

We are born to die

On December 18, 1799 George Washington was laid to rest, and during his funeral an oration was given by Dr. Elisha Cullens Dick (1762-1825) – one of the doctors who tended Washington as he lay dying. This speech moved me in many ways. It opened my eyes to the reality that one day I’m going to die. It’s not something we should be anxious about or worry about. But it is something we should prepare for. Everything we do in this life is vain, it will all turn to dust eventually. It cannot be eternal. But within each of us is an eternal soul – something that has the opportunity to survive death. The only way it can survive is through the truth that is laid out in the bible. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me shall have eternal life.” But it’s more than just saying “Oh sure, I believe in Jesus!” It must come from the heart, and more importantly one must live their life the right way. This speech by Elisha Cullens Dick really opened my eyes that I need to be far more diligent than I have been with regards to being a disciple of Christ. Life is unpredictable. You can be fine one day, the next you can be dead. George Washington experienced just that kind of death. He was fine and less than two days later was dead from a throat infection that essentially suffocated him.

So here’s that speech that was given. It rings with great truth and a warning that we need to pursue our eternity with greater attention.

Here we view a striking instance of the uncertainty of life and the vanity of all human pursuit. The last offices paid to the dead are only useful as lectures to the living, on them we are to derive instruction and to consider every solemnity of this kind as a summons to prepare for our approaching dissolution, not withstanding the various mementos of mortality with which we daily meet. Not withstanding that death has established his empire over all works of nature. Yet, through some unaccountable infatuation, we forget that we are born to die. We go on from one design to another, add hope to hope, and lay-out plans for the employment of many years until suddenly we are alarmed by the approach of our death, when we least expected him, and at an hour that we probably assumed to be the meridian of our existence. Let the present example excite our most serious thoughts and strengthen our resolutions to amendment. As life is uncertain and all earthly pursuits are vain, let us no longer postpone the important concern of preparing for eternity. Let us embrace the happy moment while time and opportunity offer to provide against the great change, and all the pleasures of this world shall cease to delight, and the reflections of a virtuous life shall yield the only comfort and consolation. Thus our expectations will not be frustrated when we are hurried, unprepared, into the presence of an all wise and powerful judge, to whom the secrets of all hearts are known, and from whom no culprit can escape. Brethren let us, while in this stage of existence, support with propriety the character of our profession, advert to the nature of our solemn ties, and pursue with assiduity the sacred tenants of the order. Then with becoming reverence let us supplicate the divine grace and insure the favor of the eternal being whose goodness and power know no bound. That when the awful moment arrives, be it soon or late, we may be enabled to persecute our journey without dread or apprehension to that far distant country, from which no traveller returns. By the light of the divine countenance we shall pass without trembling through those gloomy mansions where all things are forgotten, and on the great and tremendous day of trial and retribution, when we are arraigned at the bar of divine justice, let us hope that justice will be pronounced in our favor and we shall receive our reward in possession of an immortal inheritance, where joy flows in one continued stream and no mound may check its course. May we be true and faithful, and live and die in love. May we profess what is good, and may we always act agreeably to our profession. May the Lord bless us and prosper us and may all our good intentions be crowned with success. Glory be to God on high, on earth peace and goodwill toward men.

How I became a graphic artist, and why!

In 1989 I landed my first real IT job. And…

“But wait, Kevin, you said this was going to be about how you became a graphic artist, what’s IT got to do with it?”

I’m getting there. You see back in 1984 my Dad purchased the very first Apple Macintosh, and prior to that occurrence, I was all into drawing, painting, design stuff. But that Macintosh grabbed me and pulled me off in a new direction – computers! I wanted to know everything there was about how it worked, how to make my own programs and so on. This would lead me five years later to landing my first IT job. And for the next 18 years I would work in IT, doing everything from user support to operational networking to UNIX system administration. But by 1999 my interest in IT was waning. Something else was calling to me, but I knew not what. In 2004 I was hired by U.S. News and World Report magazine as their Senior Mac Systems Admin and IT department liaison to the Art Department. It would be this moment in time that would bring everything into focus. From the first time I drew a crude drawing with crayons as a child to the time I won an award for an oil painting as a teenager, to this moment. For you see I befriended a guy named Rob, who was a graphic artist for U.S. News. I would eventually get to the point where I would spend my entire lunch break watching him work, creating the most amazing designs for the magazine that week. Cover designs, infographics, and more! I thought to myself – THIS! THIS IS WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING! Oh how I would love to sit all day making these amazing creations. I was never meant to be a computer guy. I was meant to be a creator of designs. So I find myself thanking Rob these days for being the catalyst that revealed what I was meant to do.

In September 2007 I wrote my letter of resignation and I had a plan to go back to school and get a degree in design, go out into the workforce and become a great graphic artist. I kept the letter under wraps and planned to present it on December 15th of that year.

Well, things went better for me than expected. A month later I was informed I was being laid off. I had survived three previous lay-offs, but this time they got me. And I couldn’t have been happier. Instead of resigning and then having nothing – I now had a big severance package that would cover me for another year. That day my boss ran into me in the hallway and looked at me with a strange look, she said, “Kevin, you seem to be taking this really well!” and I didn’t have the heart to say, “Well, yeah, I’m getting out of this hell hole and doing what I should have been doing all along!”

In March 2012 I graduated with a degree in graphic design, launched my own design studio and was my own boss for three years before being hired by one of my clients. Today I am lead designer for a company called Omnilert, and it’s the most fulfilling job I have ever had. I wake up every morning excited with the anticipation of doing great design work that day.

But why did I become a graphic artist? Was it because I should have been one in the first place? Was it because it’s fun? Was it because I never again have to tell that lady on the third floor to stop writing her passwords down on post-it notes? Nope.

I became a graphic artist because life is too short not to do what you love!

There and back again…

It’s been a long time since I made a post on my blog, and for that I apologize. Matters more important have been taking up all of my time. I lost my Mom in December, she was 78 years old and in late November she got really sick, and that progressed to the point where she was admitted to the ICU and her kidneys failed. I am truly thankful I got to say my goodbyes to her three days before she passed away. Since that time I have been reeling from the loss, suffering from severe depression and some hardcore crying spells. I was closest to my Mom, so I knew that when she died I would face grief unlike anything I have experienced. Needless to say I am on the mend, my depression is lessening, my focus has been on doing what I need to do everyday to survive and live my life as she would want me to. Now that time is becoming more available here and there, I will be able to resume posting here. I just needed some time away from everything to work through losing my Mom.

We need our space program back!

What truly saddens me is you don’t see this amazing sight anymore – the launch of an American spacecraft, the cheers from the thousands of onlookers, the excitement and thrill of the ride to orbit. Instead we now rely on Russia to launch our astronauts to space and private space companies to resupply the International Space Station. It’s just a disgrace. Now China is preparing to begin a series of launches toward the goal of landing on the moon. India is also ramping up their space program, and let’s not forget about Japan and the European Space Agency. America’s space program lies in waste as funding continues to be cut, as we wait for NASA who is trying to build the next generation of spacecraft to take us to the moon and beyond – yet continues to have its budget cut. Space isn’t a frivolous venture, it’s one with incredible returns in science, medicine and exploration. I miss seeing those mighty ships lift off from Kennedy Space Center proudly wearing the American flag. I hope to see it again someday.