Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni


Ironically, Tomaso Albinoni's fame rests largely on the compositional efforts of someone he could never have met.  In 1945 Remo Giazotto unearthed a bassline and six bars of melody which he extrapolated into the Adagio for Strings and Organ, now to be found on any classical compilation album as Albinoni's Adagio.  Not that this would have been much of a surprise to Albinoni - he had already had his work adapted by no less a composer than Johann Sebastian Bach, who took themes from Albinoni's Op. 1 Trio Sonatas as subjects for keyboard fugues. 

Born in Venice to a rich family, Albinoni was able to devote his life to music at his father's expense.  Previous attempts to write ecclesiastical music had not been as reverential as the church would have liked, so instead Albinoni turned to opera.  Zenobia, Regina de Palmireni was performed in 1694 and was the first of over 50 known operas of his - the total number is thought to be over 80.  He also enjoyed great success with further trio sonatas and concertos.

Perhaps his father did not feel his son had accumulated enough (if any) experience to take over the family business, or perhaps he was upset at his eldest boy's interest in what he saw as a waste of time; either way, Albinoni was largely written out of his father's will.  What little he inherited was eventually seized by his father's creditors, but by this time Albinoni was established enough for this to minimally affect him. Like many others of his time, he furthered his career by dedicating works to nobility, who would then lend patronage, providing they could establish him as the genuine Albinoni and not the imposter touring Germany under his name!

Albinoni's detractors point to his resistance to change and innovation, his superfluous note-spinning and lack of harmonic finesse, but his gift for melody maintained his popularity, and he set standards which were followed by many.  He was the first composer to use three-movement form consistently, and his use of fugues in the final movement became a characteristic feature.

See also: Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli

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