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Learn About the Italian Composer, Tomaso Albinoni's Works and Life

Tomaso Albinoni: Overview

  • Born: 1671 - Venice, Italy
  • Died: 1751 - VeniceItaly
  • Historical Period: Baroque 
  • Musical Media: vocal, orchestra, chamber music, opera 

Composer, Tomaso Albinoni

Tomaso Albinoni was born in Venice in 1671. His father was an established paper merchant, and from a very young age, Albinoni showed signs of incredible talent as a singer and even more with the violin. During his long life of compositional brilliance, he remained mostly in Venice, with occasional visits to Florence in 1703 and later to Munich in 1722. There was a considerable time during which he didn’t compose anything, before passing away in the year 1751. His best-known works, despite his fame at the opera in his time, are instrumental music. His pieces include 59 concertos and 99 sonatas.  

Tomaso Albinoni: The Venetian Baroque Master 

Despite his obvious talents in music and training to accompany it, Albinoni never yearned for a professional position in his lifetime. As already mentioned, he displayed prodigious talents with the violin and was one of the most revered performers of his era. His very first attempts at musical composition were with church music, which failed. In spite of that, the year 1694 saw him publish 12 trio sonatas to great success. This was immediately followed by Zenobia, Regina de Palmireni (1694), an opera, also to critical acclaim. 

Although the Adagio in G minor is popularly known to have been composed by Albinoni, the actual authorship allegedly belonged to Remo Giazotto, a biographer. In 1945, Giazotto went to Dresden after the second world war had destroyed most of Albinoni’s work and among ruins, he found a part of a longer manuscript. Deriving from the six bars of melody and a bass line on it, Giazotto apparently composed the Adagio in G minor. This is, of course, a matter of great dispute amongst historians and musicologists alike. 

There is a strong possibility that in 1700, the composer received employment from the Duke of Mantua himself to whom he dedicated his Sinfonie e Concerti a 5, Op.2 (1700). Albinoni composed the highly regarded 12 Balletti à tre, Op.3 (1701), dedicating it to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de' Medici. Albinoni’s vocal productions were only shared through manuscripts, except for his Twelve Cantatas, Op. 4 (1702). Estienne Roger published the composer’s oboe concertos in 1715. 

Albinoni married Margherita Rimandi, who was a soprano singer, in the year 1705. This union produced six children, while Margherita pursued a singing career of her own volition. Inheriting his father’s significant fortune, Albinoni opened a singing school and at one point, referred to himself as Dilettante Veneto, particularly while he was composing for art’s sake than for profit. He also wrote 12 Concerti a cinque in 1722. That same year, Albinoni journeyed to Munich, invited by Maximilian II Emanuel, who was the Elector of Bavaria. This invitation was with a single purpose - to oversee and regulate musical performances during the wedding of the Prince-Elector and the daughter of Emperor Joseph I.

Albinoni had a distinct and prolific career. His name and greatness are derived from the fact that he had a unique approach to his compositions. For example, he was a master of vocal idioms which is evident in his work for the oboe. Keen observations reveal that his oboe pieces progress in small intervals, deliberately avoiding “violin leaps” found in the contemporary music of his time. It is, therefore, easily acceptable, that although not as profoundly popular as Bach or Beethoven, he had a sense of originality, making him one of the stalwarts of the Baroque era. 


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