Born to Antonio Albinoni (1634–1709), 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 Pietro, Cardinal Ottoboni (grand-nephew of Pope Alexander VIII); Ottoboni was an important patron in Rome of other composers, such as Arcangelo Corelli. 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 Grand Duke Ferdinand III 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 court of nobility, 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 1751, "age 84" (presumed to be a mistake), of diabetes.
Music and influence
His instrumental music greatly attracted the attention of Johann Sebastian Bach, who wrote at least two fugues on Albinoni's themes and constantly 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, thus little is known of his life and music after the mid 1720s.
In The Doors album, An American Prayer, Jim Morrison recites poetry with what seems to be an adapted musical arrangement of the Adagio in G Minor being played in the background for Feast of Friends. Yngwie Malmsteen's Icarus Dream Suite Op. 4 is inspired and based mainly on Adagio in G Minor.
- Op. 1 (1694): 12 Sonate a tre
- Op. 2 (1700): 6 Sinfonie & 6 Concerti a cinque
- Op. 3 (1701): 12 Balletti a tre
- Op. 4 (1702): 12 Cantate da camera a voce sola
- Op. 5 (1707): 12 Concerti a cinque
- Op. 6 (c. 1711): 12 Trattenimenti armonici per camera
- Op. 7 (1715): 12 Concerti a cinque
- Op. 8 (1722): 6 Balletti & 6 Sonate a tre
- Op. 9 (1722): 12 Concerti a cinque
- Op. 10 (1735/36): 12 Concerti a cinque
- Zenobia (1694)
- Il prodigio dell'Innocenza (1695)
- Zenone (1696)
- Tigrane (1697)
- Primislao (1697)
- L'ingratitudine castigata (1698)
- Il Radamisto (1698)
- Diomede punito da Alcide (1700)
- L'inganno innocente (1702)
- L'arte in gara con l'arte (1702)
- La Griselda (Apostolo Zeno librettos, 1703)
- La fede tra gl'inganni (1707)
- Elio Seiano (1707)
- Astarto (1708)
- Pimpinone (intermezzo, 1708)
- Tradimento tradito (1708)
- Engelberta (1709)
- Ciro (1709)
- Il tiranno eroe (1710)
- Il Giustino (1711)
- Alarico (1712)
- Amor di figlio non conosciuto (1715)
- Il vinto trionfante del vincitore (1717)
- Eumene (1717)
- Cleomene (1718)
- I veri amici (1722)
- Gli eccessi della gelosia (1722)
- Ermengarda (1723)
- Eumene (Apostolo Zeno librettos, 1723)
- Laodice (1724)
- Antigono (1724)
- Scipione nelle Spagne (Apostolo Zeno librettos, 1724)
- Didone abbandonata (Pietro Metastasio librettos, tragedia, 1725)
- Alcina delusa (1725)
- Lucio Vero (1725)
- Il trionfo d'Armida (1726)
- L'incostanza schernita (1727)
- Le due rivali in amore (1728)
- Il concilio dei planeti (serenate, 1729)
- Elenia (1730)
- Li stratagemmi amorosi (1730)
- Il più fedel tra gli amanti (1731)
- Ardelinda (1732)
- Candalide (1734)
- Artamene (1740)
Contemporary performances and popular culture use
- Main article Adagio in G minor.
The Adagio in G minor has achieved a level of fame such that it is commonly transcribed for other instruments, and used in popular culture, for example as background music for films (Gallipoli, 1981, which is set in 1915–1916 during the World War I battle of the same name) and television programs and in advertisements. Itself (supposedly) a transcription and reconstruction of a portion of a single movement of a work, most of which is lost, it has been further transcribed for various instruments.
- 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)
- Tomaso Albinoni free scores in the Werner Icking Music Archive
- Albinoni was listed in the International Music Score Library Project
- Video performance of Adagio in G minor by T.Albinoni