Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saturday music spot: Albinoni/Giazotto Adagio in G Minor

Tomaso Albinoni is most unusual among great composers in having been a man of independent means rather than a client of a royal or noble court or an employee of a church - he was the son of wealthy Venetian paper merchant.

In his own lifetime he was mostly known as a composer of operas and his music was admired by and influenced composers such as Bach and was favourably compared to that of Telemann and Vivaldi

Unfortunately most of the 50 operas he wrote, which were greatly praised in his own century, have not survived and he is mostly known today for his instrumental and orchestral works.

Most ironically, although there is little doubt that he genuinely deserves to be remembered as a great composer there is considerable doubt how much of the most famous piece associated with his name, the work usually referred to as the "Albinoni Adagio," was actually composed by him.

The circumstances around it's publication have been called the biggest fraud in music history.

After his death most of Albinoni's unpublished work was stored in the Saxon State Library in Dresden, which was subsequently wrecked by Allied bombing raids during World War II.

In 1945 the Milanese musicologist Remo Giazotto (1910 - 1998) set out to write a biography of Albinoni and catalogue his remaining works, mining what was left in the Dresden archives.

A few years later Giazotto published a work called Adagio in G minor, which he claimed at the time to have transcribed from a manuscript fragment of an Albinoni sonata that he had received from the Saxon State Library.

Giazotto asserted he had completed Albinoni’s single movement in tribute, copywriting and publishing it in 1958 under his own name with the catchy title,

"Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ on Two Thematic Ideas and on a Figured Bass by Tomaso Albinoni."

It was a massive hit and used in the soundtrack of a number of famous films, but many people found it easier to refer to this music just as the "Albinoni Adagio" - can't think why!

To this day, Albinoni’s fragment has never been produced and no official record of its presence has been found in the collection of the Saxon State Library - although it is entirely possible, of course, that the relevant records existed but were destroyed in the war.

But whatever the origins of the work, it is a fantastic piece of music.

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