In a world without recording technology, most professional musicians had to perform concerts in order to get paid. That’s why most of the great composers of history had day jobs as priests or kappellmeisters (choral or music directors for churches or aristocrats). Some finagled livelihoods through romantic relationships with rich benefactors (pianist Franz Liszt was a performance sensation but always seemed to have a princess or heiress in his, er, back pocket). It was also quite common for composers to die penniless, which also usually meant dying of dramatically debilitating and mysterious diseases, as was the case with Mozart and Chopin. Music was not a career that most parents wished for their children.
So when Antonio Vivaldi was born on this day in 1678, it’s possible that his mother dedicated him to the priesthood, into which he was ordained in 1703. A year later he took a job as the musical director at an orphanage called the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice, and would work there for most of his adult life, writing music for his wards to perform. The stuff gained recognition, as did Vivaldi, which prompted commissions from nobles who wanted music for their own enjoyment. So he quit his regular job and spent a few years in Mantua, which is where he wrote his famous Four Seasons. But by 1730 the aristocrats’ tastes had changed, and Vivaldi fell out of their favor, forcing him to sell his life’s possessions to raise enough money to get back to Venice, where he’d die a pauper without a royal patron or job.
Does the Internet make it possible for today’s makers of music to do something similar, only minus the starving and dying young part?