Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1750)

The next two CDs in my collection are recordings of concerti by Tomaso Albinoni. One is a two CD set containing the complete Op. 9 concerti, while the other contains one from Op. 9 and a handful from Op. 7. Both contain his most famous work, the Adagio in G minor for Organ and Strings.

The best info I could find on Albinoni in my text library comes from the DK Eyewitness Companions: Classical Music. Born just seven years before Vivaldi in Venice, Albinoni was a freelance composer and occasional performer and singer. His family owned a business manufacturing playing cards, which he inherited. However, to pursue a career in music, he left management of the family business in care of two younger brothers.

In all, he composed 55 operas and 59 concerti, in which he was the first to use the three movement format (fast-slow-fast) consistently. This became, for the most part, the standard format for concerti.

The Op. 9 concerti are composed of four sections of three works each; there are twelve in all. Each section begins with a concerto for violin, strings, and continuo, followed by a concerto for oboe, strings, and continuo. The final concerto is a work for two oboes, strings, and continuo.

From the CD I have, it appears that the Op. 7 concerti follow a similar pattern, though not exactly the same. It is difficult to tell, as not all of the Op. 7 works are included.

In living with this music over the last week, I've found that while all the works are lively and enjoyable, the repeated format and instrument combinations begin to blend into each other, and it becomes hard to separate one from the other in my mind. One notable exception in the Op. 9, No. 8 in G minor. Up to this point, there has been only one concerto in a minor mode (No. 2 in D minor), so No. 8 kinda jumps out at you. There's a fullness to the continuo that carries the work, above which the single oboe has an almost mezzo vocal sound to it.

Both recordings contain the famous Adagio for organ that I really, really dislike. After one pass through the recordings, I just skipped over it. While it certainly stands out from the concerti, it's more so like an elephant in the sitting room, awkward, and after a few hearings you wish it would just go away. I was pleased to learn that, though the work is attributed to Albinoni, it was in fact composed by Remo Giazotto in - are you ready for this? 1945! Only the baseline is Albinoni's.