Vivaldi’s Violins and the Daughters of Choro

Antonio Vivaldi is the most important, influential and original Italian musician of the Baroque period. The violin inspired his genius, reciprocated with a luminous writing, rich in ideas, colors and temperament.

The exhibition Vivaldi’s Violins and the Daughters of Choro at the Violin Museum of Cremona, from May 5* to August 1, curated by Fausto Cacciatori, Deborah Pase and Federico Maria Sardelli, reinterprets this shining era through the instruments chosen and used by the “red priest” and the girls of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice.

The ancient institution for the assistance of abandoned children was, at that time, also a music conservatory where talented young orphans were initiated to singing and to the study of various musical instruments. Vivaldi worked there from 1703 to 1740, first as Master of Violin and later as Master of Concerts, thus also dealing with the choice and purchase of musical instruments. In that period the Ospedale bought more than fifty instruments, many of which are part of the collection, which boasts some pieces of very high historical value, made by famous luthiers, such as the two cellos by Matteo Goffriller and a violin by Pietro Guarneri.

The collection is recognized as a very rare complex of “baroque” instruments, coming from a single, ancient Musical Chapel and partly unmodified for modern performance. Almost all of the instruments ceased continuous use at the end of the 18th century, when the violin had not yet completed its entire evolutionary course, and therefore most of them are still in their original state. The collection of the Istituto della Pietà presents itself, therefore, as a great source of information on string instruments of the Venetian and German schools of the end of the 18th century, from which scholars can draw precious indications and knowledge. The instruments are presented after an intense campaign of study, conservation and restoration by the Violin Museum, the Master’s Degree Course in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage of the University of Pavia and Cr.Forma.

At the same time, documents, images and objects will allow the visitor to retrace the history of the Ospedale della Pietà, an extremely modern hospital, unique in Europe, a laboratory of education and emancipation. In particular, the Daughters of Choro were appreciated choristers and musicians. The exhibition recounts, albeit briefly, their fascinating vicissitudes. Abandoned as newborns in the scafetta, the place designated to receive the young patients of the Ospedale della Pietà, the Putte del Choro were selected for their musical talent and instructed by famous masters such as Francesco Gasparini and Antonio Vivaldi. With the technical characteristics of his students in mind, Vivaldi personally chose the violins for the Figlie di Choro such as Zanetta, Marcolina and Susanna. The Putte del Choro were figures shrouded in an aura of mystery, since during the concerts they performed from the cantorie, concealed by the thick wrought iron weave of the gratings with which they were decorated, which made their faces invisible to the public. Many of them became famous and acclaimed performers, impressing with their bravura chroniclers and foreign travelers who praised their virtuosity. “That of the four hospitals where I go most often and where I am most amused,” wrote the man of letters and traveler Charles De Brosses in 1739, “is the Hospital of the Pietà; this is also the first for the perfection of the orchestra. What rigor in execution!” Echoes of that perfect harmony inspired the exhibition and will resonate in the halls of the Violin Museum.

The exhibition I violini di Vivaldi e le Figlie di Choro is promoted by the Fondazione Museo del Violino and by the Istituto Provinciale per l’Infanzia Santa Maria della Pietà di Venezia, in collaboration with the Distretto Culturale della Liuteria di Cremona and Michelangelo Foundation, with the contribution of Regione Lombardia and Fondazione Cariplo.

*to be confirmed according to governmental provisions on the reopening of museums


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