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Discovering Vivaldi in the 20th Century

While the name Vivaldi is a household classical name, its easy to forget that until the early 20th century his music had been completely forgotten.

By 1926, nearly all of Vivaldi’s work had been lost. So when Turin University musicologist Alberto Gentili was presented with a box of incomplete, unsorted pages from hundreds of Vivaldi’s compositions, he began a ten-year investigation to hunt down the remaining pages and place them in their original order. The end result: 319 complete Antonio Vivaldi compositions that had been lost to the world for nearly two centuries.

The explosion of new work from Vivaldi—a relatively obscure musician whose influence had been long-acknowledged, but whose music had all but disappeared—gave his work a new public debut. It was as if Vivaldi had been born a second time, and had a very short, implausibly prolific career. By the 1950s, his music held a unique place in the canon: Antonio Vivaldi was acknowledged by scholars as one of the greatest and most influential classical musicians in history, but he was also seen by the listening public as fresh, mysterious, and unfamiliar. No other composer of similar prominence has experienced that kind of rebirth, and it’s unlikely that any ever will.

The SSO explore two incredible Vivaldi works this week with violinist Pascale Giguere for our first Baroque Series concert of the year.

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