Giazotto’s Albinoni Adagio

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In the wake of the fall Goucher Orchestra concert, I thought I would take a minute to post a video of one of the works we performed along with my thoughts about the piece from the program notes. Enjoy!

Nobody could blame the Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto (1910-1998) for being a bit chagrined. His most famous composition is popular all over the world, yet he rarely gets the credit for writing it. Popularly known as the “Albinoni Adagio,” his Adagio in G Minor on Themes of Tomaso Albinoni contains only six measures of music from a “Sonata a tre” in G minor without opus number by the Italian Baroque composer who lived between 1671 and 1750. Giazotto discusses his method for creating the piece in his notes from the printed score: 

The first move towards the reconstruction of the work was provided by the realization of the figured bass, to which a brief introduction was added. Using this figured bass and the two thematic elements (six bars in all) the whole was pieced together and composed in full accordance with the harmonic tissue suggested by the figured bass. The organ, instead of the harpsichord, has been indicated for the figured bass in consideration of the mystic atmosphere created by it and on the assumption that this might have been a Sonata a tre ‘da chiesa’ and not ‘da camera’.

The “Adagio” doesn’t necessarily transport the listener back to the Baroque era, but rather to a romanticized conception of the period. The poignant pathos of the music may be connected to the discovery of Albinoni’s original manuscript. As the compiler of the thematic index of Albinoni’s works, Giazotto received the six measure fragment from the State Library of Dresden following the destruction of World War II. Because musicologists deal with the painful frustration of lost masterpieces on a regular basis, it’s hard not to wonder: Did the tantalizing fragment of “what could have been” combined with the cultural devastation of WWII inspire Giazotto to write his elegiac music? We can only speculate.

2 comments

  1. Hi Elisa. Would you mind if I used your programme note for the Aalbinoni Adagio for an upcoming performance by the (amateur) Banbury Symphony Orchestra in the UK? It would be a massive help.
    Thanks,
    Simon

    1. Hi, Simon. Please feel free to use the programme note for your concert. If you wouldn’t mind giving me credit, I would appreciate it. Hope you have a wonderful concert!
      Best regards,
      Elisa Koehler

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