TOMASO GIOVANNI ALBINONI (1671-1751)
Sonata a cinque for two violins, two violas, and basso continuo in G Minor Op. 2 No. 6
Performed by Ensemble 415
Directed by Chiara Banchini
*Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni was a Venetian Baroque composer. While famous in his day as an opera composer, he is mainly remembered today for his instrumental music, some of which is regularly recorded.
Born to Antonio Albinoni, a wealthy paper merchant in Venice, he studied violin and singing. Relatively little is known about his life, especially considering his contemporary stature as a composer, and the comparatively well-documented period in which he lived. In 1694 he dedicated his Opus 1 to the fellow-Venetian Pietro, Cardinal Ottoboni (grand-nephew of Pope Alexander VIII); Ottoboni was an important patron in Rome of other composers, such as Arcangelo Corelli. Albinoni was possibly employed in 1700 as a violinist to Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, to whom he dedicated his Opus 2 collection of instrumental pieces. In 1701 he wrote his hugely popular suites Opus 3, and dedicated that collection to Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
In 1705, he was married; Antonino Biffi, the maestro di cappella of San Marco was a witness, and evidently was a friend of Albinoni's. Albinoni seems to have no other connection with that primary musical establishment in Venice, however, and achieved his early fame as an opera composer at many cities in Italy, including Venice, Genoa, Bologna, Mantua, Udine, Piacenza, and Naples. During this time he was also composing instrumental music in abundance: prior to 1705, he mostly wrote trio sonatas and violin concertos, but between then and 1719 he wrote solo sonatas and concertos for oboe.
Unlike most composers of his time, he appears never to have sought a post at either a church or noble court, but then he was a man of independent means and had the option to compose music independently. In 1722, Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, to whom Albinoni had dedicated a set of twelve concertos, invited him to direct two of his operas in Munich.
Around 1740, a collection of Albinoni's violin sonatas was published in France as a posthumous work, and scholars long presumed that meant that Albinoni had died by that time. However it appears he lived on in Venice in obscurity; a record from the parish of San Barnaba indicates Tomaso Albinoni died in 1751, of diabetes.
He wrote some fifty operas, of which twenty-eight were produced in Venice between 1723 and 1740, but today is most noted for his instrumental music, especially his oboe concertos.
His instrumental music greatly attracted the attention of Johann Sebastian Bach, who wrote at least two fugues on Albinoni's themes and constantly used his basses for harmony exercises for his pupils.
Part of Albinoni's work was lost in World War II with the destruction of the Dresden State Library, thus little is known of his life and music after the mid-1720s.
The Albinoni Adagio in G minor is a 1958 composition entirely composed by Remo Giazotto, which Giazotto claimed to have based on fragments from a slow movement of an Albinoni trio sonata he had been sent by the Dresden State Library.