Albinoni/Giazotto: Adagio in G minor
Work Name: Adagio in G minor
Form: Movement for violin, strings, and organ continuo
Composer: Tomasso Albinoni/Remo Giazotto (see description)
Year: sketched by Albinoni: c. 1704, Giazotto in 1958 (see description)
Catalog Number: None
Listings: 9 versions that highlight: Violins, Solo Violin, Viola, Strings, Organ, Guitar, Flutes, Cello, Vocal Quartet
DescriptionThe Adagio in G minor for violin, strings, and organ continuo is a neo-Baroque composition popularly attributed to the 18th-century Venetian master Tomaso Albinoni, but actually composed by 20th-century musicologist and Albinoni biographer Remo Giazotto, purportedly based on the discovery of a manuscript fragment by Albinoni. There is a continuing scholarly debate about whether the alleged fragment was real, or a musical hoax perpetrated by Giazotto, but there is no doubt about Giazotto’s authorship of the remainder of the work.
Provenance: The composition is often referred to as “Albinoni’s Adagio” or “Adagio in G minor by Albinoni, arranged by Giazotto”, but the attribution is incorrect. The ascription to Albinoni rests upon Giazotto’s purported discovery of a manuscript fragment (consisting of a few opening measures of the melody line and basso continuo portion) from a slow second movement of an otherwise unknown Albinoni trio sonata.
According to Giazotto, he obtained the document shortly after the end of World War II from the Saxon State Library in Dresden which had preserved most of its collection, though its buildings were destroyed in the bombing raids of February and March 1945 by the British and American Air Forces. Giazotto concluded that the manuscript fragment was a portion of a church sonata (sonata da chiesa, one of two standard forms of the trio sonata) in G minor composed by Albinoni, possibly as part of his Op. 4 set, around 1708.
In his account, Giazotto then constructed the balance of the complete single-movement work based on this fragmentary theme. He copyrighted it and published it in 1958 under a title which, translated into English, reads “Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ, on Two Thematic Ideas and on a Figured Bass by Tomaso Albinoni”. Giazotto never produced the manuscript fragment, and no official record has been found of its presence in the collection of the Saxon State Library.
Musicologist Muska Mangano, Giazotto’s last assistant, claimed to have 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”. The scholarly consensus is that the Adagio is Giazotto’s composition, whatever source may have inspired him.
The piece is most commonly orchestrated for string ensemble and organ, or string ensemble alone, but with its growing fame has been transcribed for other instruments. Italian conductor Ino Savini (1904–1995) transcribed the Adagio for a large orchestra and conducted the piece himself in Ostrava in 1967 with the Janáček Philharmonic. The composition has also permeated popular culture, having been used as background music for many films, in television programmes, and in advertisements.