Already at the beginning of the 18th century Antonio Vivaldi featured, together with his father, as one of Venice’s ‘attractions’, as we learn from a contemporary traveller’s guide: ‘Among the finest who play the violin, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi and his son, the priest, are truly unique.’
How exceptional Vivaldi's violin-playing skills must have been can be concluded from the now famous report by Johann Friedrich Armand von Uffenbach, a Frankfurt jurist, wealthy dilettante and patron. Travelling in Italy, he noted in his diary, on the occasion of an opera performance in the Teatro Sant’ Angelo in the spring of 1715:
... towards the end, Vivaldi played an accompagnement solo, in an admirable fashion, to which he finally added a fantasy [i.e. a solo cadence], which quite shocked me, since it is impossible that such has ever been played or can be played, because his fingers came only within a straw’s breadth of the bridge, so that there was no space for the bow, and this on all 4 strings with fugues and a velocity which is unbelievable, he astonished everyone with it.