“Apart from a short period (1717-19) spent in Mantua under the patronage of Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, Vivaldi never held a full-time post in church or at court; for a composer of Vivaldi’s talent and standing, this was most unusual.
That said, he was employed for significant periods by the Ospedale della Pietài, a Venetian institution (founded c.1340) that cared for unwanted children, often illegitimate or physically disadvantagedii. The Pietà’s performers were taken from a group of women known as the figlie di coro, who sang and played the violin, violin in tromba marina, viola, viola d’amore, cello, violone, viol, double bass, theorbo, mandolin, harpsichord, organ, oboe, flute, recorder, chalumeau and clarinet. The Pietà developed a strong reputation for its musical performances, engaging the finest composers and teachers of the day. It was important to ensure that the standards were high; after all, these entertainments were most popular with Venetians and visitors alike whose donations provided a welcome extra source of revenue.
In addition to the many fine vocal works, Vivaldi also contributed many concertos that could be used to replace parts of the liturgy in church services. Amongst these are almost certainly all of his concertos for violin and obligato organ, presumably designed to show off the magnificent instrument that the Pietà had purchased in 1708.
We are extremely grateful to the Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot for sharing his findings. As so much of Vivaldi’s sacred output seems to have been created whilst deputising for others, one can only imagine the riches that would have poured forth from his pen had he been given a church post. The quality of the music contained within his sacred oeuvre is breath-taking and it is a great tragedy that the evidence points to a large tranche of this repertoire having been lost over the years. It is interesting on this last point to note how few of the great composers since 1750 have been violinists. One can only hope that the time is now ripe for Vivaldi’s genius as a church composer to be fully recognised”
La Serenissima is the UK’s leading exponent of the music of eighteenth-century Venice. Praised for its ‘all-too-rare ability to make one’s pulse race afresh with every new project’ (Gramophone), La Serenissima has uncovered a plethora of neglected music, making it available to all through live performance, recording and outreach. Uniquely, the group’s entire repertoire is edited from source material. Founded in 1994 by violinist Adrian Chandler, La Serenissima is recognised for its outstanding
recording catalogue, which is regularly featured on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and international radio; advertising (Versace, 2018) and film (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, 2020). The group has won two Gramophone Awards: for The French Connection (2010) and The Italian Job (2017); in 2018 Vivaldi X2 topped the UK Classical Chart.
Behind Closed Doors, made in 2020, attracted a double five-star review in BBC Music Magazine for the music of neglected composer Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello. The group embarked on new digital formats in 2021 with support from the Culture Recovery Fund & Continuo Foundation. This created outreach videos aimed at Key-Stage 2 children and the launch of a podcasting series Lost & Found. La Serenissima performs across the UK and internationally and is proud to have
as its Honorary Patron, His Excellency The Italian Ambassador to the UK.