Tomaso Albinoni

Adagio in G minor

Mi 26

Recommended recording

Curated by Mary Elizabeth Kelly, Primephonic Curator

About this work

Many composers have attained fame through a single work which has gone on to become an international favorite, and Tomaso Albinoni would have belonged to that category if it were not for the fact that the famous Albinoni Adagio was not written by him. This soulful and elegiac work was in fact created by the Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, who came across a tiny manuscript fragment (consisting of just a few measures of the melody line and basso continuo part) among relics in a library collection in Dresden, shortly after the end of World War II. After considering the evidence, Giazotto concluded that he had unearthed a portion of a church sonata (sonata da chiesa) which he presumed had been composed by Albinoni, possibly as part of his Op. 4 set, around 1708.

On the basis of these findings, Giazotto proceeded to construct a complete single-movement work around the fragmentary theme he had ascribed to the Venetian master. The scoring, for organ and strings, and indeed the key of G minor, lend themselves to a mood of great solemnity, and the melody is a magnificent one no matter who composed it, with outbursts of quasi-improvised melancholy that suggests the tragic passion of an opera. All in all, this hybridized (some would say fraudulent) work is one of the most popular examples of music attributed to the Italian Baroque, and if (as is widely thought) Giazotto was canny enough to secure copyright to the piece, the Albinoni-Giazotto Adagio must have brought him wealth. New recordings of the work continue to appear every year.