The Reception History of Antonio Vivaldi in Eighteenth- Century Britain and Ireland


  • Annabel Goodman


The reception history of Antonio Vivaldi’s music in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland has been an under-researched topic within Vivaldian scholarship. While some literature on the topic has been written, studies seem to be scattered and fragmented — either overly focused on a specific and niche topic, or overly generalised and acting as background information in general books on the composer’s biography or history. Furthermore, such literature tends to sideline the context of its primary sources — whether these sources were aimed at general audiences or professional composers. As Vivaldi’s music was, in fact, reasonably well known and popular in Britain and Ireland, and that its reception differed from other European cultures, a study of the composer in eighteenth-century British culture is sorely needed. This article aims to provide part of that reception history by analysing a range of primary sources to gauge Vivaldi’s reception. These sources are categorised according to both their authors’ and audiences’ contexts, fitting into two broad categories — “learned musicians” and “popular entertainment.” What emerges is a contrast in views between these types of sources; while learned musicians such as Charles Burney and Sir John Hawkins heavily criticise Vivaldi’s music for its frivolous nature, sources from newspapers, satirical novels, and ephemera portray Vivaldi in a far more positive light. Thus, a detailed reception history of Vivaldi’s music in Britain and Ireland is one that would take the context of its primary sources into account.