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Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque Paperback – August 15, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

If Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678-1741) were living today, he would be comfortably fixed through royalties from recordings and other performances of his The Four Seasons. The "red priest," so-called for his red hair, spent many years in an insecure position as music master for a charitable school. Eventually, Vivaldi moved on to concentrate primarily on opera composition and production, but his financial demands and questionable relationship with the prima donna Anna Giraud stymied his efforts. In this compact yet illuminating book, Landon explores why Vivaldi's music, with the exception of The Four Seasons and the second Gloria in D, has been largely ignored. The inclusion of newly discovered correspondence and other documents pertaining to Vivaldi and his music is the most significant aspect of this book. Landon contemporizes the life and contributions of Vivaldi in a succinct and attractive style. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
- Kathleen Spark man, Baylor Univ., Waco, Tex.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Short in length but long on scholarship, a ``life and works'' of the 18th-century Venetian master that belongs on the shelf of every serious music student. Robbins Landon, the distinguished musical archaeologist whose labors led to the rediscovery of much of Haydn's lost or neglected music, has also turned his attention recently to Mozart (1791, etc.). He now skips back a generation to focus on the composer whose name has become synonymous with the Italian baroque--not wholly new territory, since Robbins Landon also coauthored Five Centuries of Music in Venice (1991--not reviewed), but what prompted him to attempt a complete life of Vivaldi was the worldwide fascination with The Four Seasons. Prior to the 1950 Cetra recording of those four violin concerti, Vivaldi had been virtually forgotten for 200 years after having been buried in an unmarked pauper's grave in Vienna; today, he's one of the immortals. Yet Robbins Landon chooses not to speculate about the cause of the amazing ``Vivaldi renaissance.'' He's content to present a detailed, chronological, strictly factual biography, including Vivaldi's years as violin virtuoso and teacher of gifted orphan girls; his growing list of compositions; and his travels around Italy and, ultimately, Vienna--almost all undertaken in connection with his frustrated attempts to become established as an opera composer. Robbins Landon's method is to quote verbatim documents, letters, and dedicatory inscriptions in the original language (most are then translated): This exact but stern presentation may not appeal to the casual reader. The author inserts himself only long enough to recount his unsuccessful attempt to edit some of Vivaldi's many operas for modern presentation; he soon decided that the attempt was doomed. He notes that, unlike Haydn's operas and surely unlike Vivaldi's instrumental and religious music, Vivaldi's operas seem to offer little to contemporary listeners. But the author also has the good grace to hope that he'll be proved wrong. No fluff--just the facts and an invitation to explore the music. (Thirty illustrations) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (August 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226468429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226468426
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Bruce Kelly on August 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Landon's lively biography is by far the most entertaining and readable of the scholarly works on Vivaldi. Filled with colorful anecdotal stories about Vivaldi's fascinating, and in some ways enigmatic life, this book is fun to read as well as informative. There are also excellent translations of many of Vivaldi's letters and an extremely helpful list of appendices, including a schedule of Vivaldi's opera productions.

Perhaps best of all are the many sparkling descriptions of Vivaldi's music. Except for the operas, which are not covered in much depth, Landon brings to life the full spectrum of Vivaldi's brilliant and prolific musical output. Landon's book is a joy to read, rich with absorbing details about Vivaldi's life and music, and should be on the bookshelf of every serious Vivaldi enthusiast.

Sarah Bruce Kelly
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Sacerdos Atque Discipulus on January 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are not many biographies about Vivaldi because, unfortunately, only a scetch of his life is known. This biography is probably the best contemporary book on him. It is not only a good synopsis of his life but it also has very good insights on his life and music. Landon's insights are especially good when he comments on specific works of Vivaldi. Vivaldi is rightly known as a master concerto composor. However, his voluminous output also included other genre, notably many beautiful operas and sacred works. Landon does a fine job in his book of commenting on these works also and proposing that, epsecially the sacred works, need to be better appreciated and popularized. As a Vivaldi buff (and there are very few of us) I highly recommend this book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael Birman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Antonio Vivaldi's life is hardly well documented: certainly not as well as Mozart's or Beethoven's. Even Bach's biographical details, scarcely thorough, are significantly greater than the "Red Priest's". Vivaldi's music and reputation nearly disappeared following his death, along with a substantial number of his manuscripts and the day-to-day details of his sui generis career. His resurrection as a composer and the dogged efforts of musicologists have provided at least the rough outlines of a biography. H. C. Robbins Landon, whom some consider Joseph Haydn's alter ego, has written an excellent biography of Vivaldi, managing to provide the details of his life in only 170 pages (including illustrations). Hardly a voluminous tome, there just isn't much day-to-day knowledge available, and what is known must often be teased out of official documents that are still coming to light.

What Robbins Landon reveals about Vivaldi, especially in his few surviving letters to the nobility or the inevitable dedications to his various noble patrons, is painful. Cringing obsequiousness, fawning servility, even an occasional whining sycophancy when things go wrong and Vivaldi pleads to a patron for assistance, are all prominently displayed. This was coin of the realm for the era: the artist as flotsam in a hierarchical world. It is painful to witness, nevertheless. What is also revealed is a certain wolfishness on Vivaldi's part. His strange and lengthy menage with the attractive and moderately talented Giraud sisters, slightly unusual for a Priest. His peculiar working habits and relationships with other artists. His somewhat craven demeanor throughout his compositional career, finally inducing him to abandon Italy for Vienna at the end.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you love baroque music and are a fan of Vivaldi you will enjoy this book! H.C. Robbins Landon has really shown alot of research in this book and gives you details about Vivaldi's work and place in society. When I read the book I was amazed at the documents and letters written by Vivaldi. The illustrations provided in this text gave me a clearer insight as to how things were like in 18th century Italy.
Also when I was read this book I now have more respect for Vivaldi's work. The amount of work he did when he was alive was amazing.(Basically, he was a workaholic!). I am glad that his works have not been neglected and are now preserved.

Bravo Landon for showing us that there is more to Vivaldi than just the 4 seasons!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Philomath on February 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very dry. Endless minutiae. Found myself scanning and skipping paragraphs in search of the life of Vivaldi.
There is very little effort made to place this artist within the context of his times. The chapter on Vivaldi's church music
reads like an inventory list, and the chapter on the production of Vivaldi's operas in Ferrara is a collection of petty, verbose, litigious letters.
This book may be valuable to some scholars, but for those of us looking for a readable biography, it was
extremely unrewarding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jerry R on November 29, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
HC Robbins Landon is scholarly yet writes with the enthusiasm for these composers like one might write about a modern day pop star. There didn't seem to be a lot of info in Vivaldi when this was written, perhaps compared to now, but he made hay with what he had... plus he wondered about the popularity of Vivaldi's operas which back then weren't given a lot of play, yet now they seem to be coming out more often. Anyway it's a good book.
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