Little has been documented about the childhood of the famed Baroch composer Antonio Vivaldi. It is believed that he was born to a professional violinist father on March 4, 1678. For unknown reasons, Vivaldi chose to join the clergy and be ordained as a priest in 1703. It would seem however that his heart was not really in the service of God as he soon left the clergy. However, there are other reasons pointed to as the reason for his departure, one of the most widely circulated reasons is that he suffered from chest pains. Although that health reason may be true, others believe that he was merely faking the illness. Apparently, during Vivaldi’s time, a poor family could not afford to send their child to a formal educational institution. However, if one wished to have his male child educated, it would be best for the child to train to become a priest to obtain free education.
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Vivaldi’s musical inclination seemed to have pointed to a love for teaching children about music. His career as a composer formally began when he was employed as a violin teacher at the Ospedale Della Pieta, a home for the female illegitimate children of noblemen. He often composed pieces that sounded similar to 5 finger exercises for children during his employment which began after he left the priesthood in 1703 and continued on a yearly renewal basis until 1711. He renewed his ties with the school in 1716, as their Maestro de Concerti. He eventually rose to the status of Maestro Di Accapella in 1735.
There was, however, an employment gap for him at the Ospedale between the years 1709 and 1711. There is a belief the composer found work with the opera theater Teatro Sant’ Angelo. He was an active composer there, having composed 12 concertos by the year 1711. These concertos were compiled and published in Amsterdam by Estienne Roger as the l’Estro armonico (Harmonic Inspiration). By the year 1713, Vivaldi was ready to and staged Ottone in the villa, his first opera, in Vicenza.
His personal life was just as colorful as his professional career. While in Venice in 1720, he met and fell for the opera singer Anna Giraud. They moved in together, with her sister Paolina, in Vivaldi’s house where Vivaldi maintained that she and her sister were merely his housekeepers and good friends. The two remained together until the composer’s death.
Vivaldi’s career did not go unnoticed by the ruling houses of the European nations and heads of the church. He composed a serenade for King Louis XV entitled La Senna festegiannte (Festival On The Seinne) sometime after the year 1720. When Christina of Sweden was forced to abdicate her throne and flee to Rome in 1654, her presence created a heightened musical climate that benefited composers of the time. Vivaldi was no exception. He found himself having composed a total of 12 operas during 1725 and 1728. These operas were most often premiered either in Venice or Florence.
Prolific though he was in the area of opera composition, Vivaldi also dabbled in the composing of conciertos. Il Cimento dell’ Armenia e dell’invenzione, Opus 8 (The Trial Of Harmony and Invention) was published in 1725 in Amsterdam. It was composed of 12 descriptive conciertos with titles like The Four Seasons, Storm at Sea, Pleasure, and The Hunt. All of which carried his unmistakable musical styling. So successful were these concerts that they were adapted by various composers such as Michel Corrette, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
While traveling with his father and Mdme. Giraud in Prague in 1730. the maestro found work with a Venetian opera company that was connected with the theatre of Count Fran Anton von Sporck. Although he returned to Venice in 1721, it was only in 1722, when he went to Mantua and Verona that his new operas Semimmide were performed for the opening of the new theatre Teatro Filarmonico.
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Upon his return from Prague, Vivaldi decided to concentrate on his operas and no longer compiled his works for publication. After hosting the 100th anniversary of the Schomburg Theatre in 1738, Vivaldi returned to Venice.
At the time, the city was experiencing an economic crisis so he resigned his position at the Ospedale in 1740 to move to Vienna under the patronage of Charles XVI. He died shortly after the move. His death on July 28, 1741, is documented as being caused by “the internal fire”, or what would commonly be known now as Asthmatic Bronchitis.
Robert Schumann was born into a family of modest means on June 8, 1810, in the area of Zwickau, Saxony. His father was a bookseller named August and his mother was named Johanna. As the youngest of 5 children, he was known as “the handsome child” and was often spoiled by his parents. His formal grammar education began at the age of 6 at the Archdeacon Dohner’s school. Although he did not prove to be remarkable in his academic studies, the young master Schumann did show other characteristics which would later dominate his life. He showed his musical inclination for the piano and showed off a budding talent for musical composition.
His musical education was entrusted to the Baccalaureus Kuntzsch who was a teacher at the local Zwickau high school. Remarkably, the boy began trying his hand at musical composition, without the aid of his tutor, almost immediately. His compositions were considered remarkable for his age even though none of his work adhered to the principles of musical composition. Such was the boy’s talent and keen sense of observation that he was able to use music to describe the people he saw around him the way that an artist would use a sketch or caricature of a person to display the aura that the person was projecting at the time.
At the age of 9, Robert attended a concert by the famed pianist Ignatz Moscheles. As the impressionable little boy watched the pianist, his mind began to build his musical aspirations. Soon after, the boy dedicated himself to his musical ambitions which saw him founding a basic school orchestra when he was in high school. It was perhaps similar to what the youth of today would call a “garage band” because they were all free to explore their musical inclinations and experiment with various instruments.
However, the boy’s continued admiration of Moscheles left his musical teacher disappointed and angry at times. The teacher eventually quit teaching Schumann because the child was refusing to follow his instructions anyway. Not to be deterred by the lack of a tutor, the boy continued his self-learning process without any formal guidance.
Sadly, the death of his father forced now the young man to rethink his ambitions in life. To satisfy his mother’s desires, he enrolled in law school at Leipzig University after he graduated from high school at the Lyceum. But his love for music was stronger than his desire to please his mother. He dropped out of his formal law studies in 1830 and continued to pursue his musical training under the tutelage of Friedrich Wieck. It was during this period of his training that he met a career-ending accident. While using a finger training machine, in 1832, he injured a finger and was forced to abandon any thoughts of pursuing a career in piano playing. There are, however, rumors that his career was instead ended by treatments used at the time to treat Sphyilitic Sores.
Together with some friends, he founded the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in 1834. Acting as the journal’s head writer and editor for 10 years. He composed several notable works during this time as well. Some of his titles from this period include: Davidsbündlertänze , Carnaval , Phantasiestücke , and Kreisleriana.
It was during his time studying with Weick that he met his daughter Clara. Theirs was a tumultuous relationship as the father continued to oppose their relationship and never gave his permission for them to marry. However, the lovebirds went ahead and did just that in 1839 as they went through painstaking legal means to no longer require the father’s consent to their marriage. Their marriage finally became a reality in 1840. The positive turn in his love life saw him turning to song composition with titles like Frauenliebe und -leben (‘A Woman’s Love and Life’) and Dichterliebe (‘A Poet’s Love’).
Schumann was a composer with diverse interests. In 1841, he tried his hand ad composing orchestral music. In 1842, he composed chamber music. 1843 was the year Schumann tried his hand at composing choral music while also teaching at a new Leipzig-based conservatory. Sadly, he was not a very good teacher and did not have the talent to conduct either. These were failures that left him depressed and unable to compose. Moving to Dresden in 1844 seemed to have helped lift his spirits only a little. However, between 1844-47 he was able to compose the opera Genoveva. He continued to other music-related positions later on in his life.
Robert Schumann succumbed to the effects of Syphilis in 1856. He died in an asylum due to his fear of turning mad but his beloved Clara continuing to care for him till the very end.
References / Bibliography
“Antonio Vivaldi”. Baroque Composers and Musicans. N.A. 2009. Web.
“Antonio Vivaldi”. Classical Music Page. 1996. Web.
“ Biography: Robert Schumann”. Veritas Digital. N.A. 2009. Web.
“Robert Schumann”. Classical Music Pages. 1996. Web.
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