Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (8 June 1671 – 17 January 1751) was an Italian Baroque composer. While famous in his day as an opera composer, he is mainly remembered today for his instrumental music, such as the concertos, some of which are regularly recorded.
Born in Venice, Republic of Venice, 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, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (grand-nephew of Pope Alexander VIII); Ottoboni was an important patron in Rome of other composers, such as Arcangelo Corelli. His first opera, Zenobia, regina de Palmireni, was produced in Venice in 1694. 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 Venice in 1751, of diabetes mellitus.
Music and influence
Most of his operatic works have been lost, having not been published during his lifetime. However, nine collections of instrumental works were published, meeting with considerable success and consequent reprints; thus it is as a composer of instrumental music (99 sonatas, 59 concertos and 9 sinfonias) that he is known today. In his lifetime these works were favorably compared with those of Corelli and Vivaldi, and his nine collections published in Italy, Amsterdam and London were either dedicated to or sponsored by an impressive list of southern European nobility. Albinoni wrote at least fifty operas of which twenty-eight were produced in Venice between 1723 and 1740. Albinoni himself claimed 81 operas (naming his second-to-last opera, in the libretto, as his 80th). In spite of his enormous output of operas, today he is most noted for his instrumental music, especially his oboe concertos. He is the first Italian known to employ the oboe as a solo instrument in concerti (c. 1715, in his 12 concerti a cinque, op. 7) and publish such works, although earlier concerti featuring solo oboe were probably written by German composers such as Telemann or Händel. In Italy, Alessandro Marcello published his well known oboe concerto in D minor a little later, in 1717. Albinoni also employed the instrument often in his chamber works.
His instrumental music greatly attracted the attention of Johann Sebastian Bach, who wrote at least two fugues on Albinoni's themes (Fugue in A major on a theme by Tomaso Albinoni, BWV 950, Fugue in B minor on a theme by Tomaso Albinoni, BWV 951) and frequently 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. As a result, little is known of his life and music after the mid-1720s.
The famous "Adagio in G minor" for violin, strings and organ, the subject of many modern recordings, is by some thought to be a musical hoax composed by Remo Giazotto. However, a discovery by musicologist Muska Mangano, Giazotto's last assistant before his death, brought up new findings. Among Giazotto's papers she discovered a modern but independent manuscript transcription of the figured bass portion and six fragmentary bars of the first violin, "bearing in the top right-hand corner a stamp stating unequivocally the Dresden provenance of the original from which it was taken". This provides support for Giazotto's account that he did base his composition on a source.
- "Tomaso Albinoni". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- .Michael Talbot, "Tomaso Albinoni", Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/00461 (accessed 30 December 2011).
- Baroque Composers and Musicians: Tomaso Albinoni
- George J. Buelow, A history of baroque music, Indiana University Press, 2004, p. 467.
- Nicola Schneider, "La tradizione delle opere di Tomaso Albinoni a Dresda", tesi di laurea specialistica (Cremona: Facoltà di musicologia dell'Università degli studi di Pavia, 2007): 181–86.
- Eleanor Selfridge-Field, Venetian Instrumental Music, from Gabrieli to Vivaldi. New York, Dover Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-486-28151-5
- Michael Talbot: "Tomaso Albinoni", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed June 25, 2005), (subscription access)
- Franco Rossi: Catalogo Tematico delle composizioni di Tomaso Albinoni Tomo I - Le 12 opere strumentali a stampa - edition "I Solisti Veneti", Padova 2002
- Franco Rossi: Catalogo Tematico delle composizioni di Tomaso Albinoni Tomo II - Le opere strumentali manoscritte - Le opere vocali - I libretti - edition "I Solisti Veneti", Padova 2003
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