Musical Hoax

I was curious as to what the whole work that contained Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor would be and decided to google the work. Amusingly enough, it turns out that this is a hoax.

Thomaso Albinoni (1671-1751) is a relatively obscure Venetian Baroque composer, who was most famous in his lifetime for his operas. In the 1950s, there emerged this “Adagio” as a hit among lovers of Baroque. It’s been used by ballet companies, by figure skaters, in movie scores (most notably Gallipoli, a 1981 film about a disastrous First World War campaign), and, with lyrics added, by a number of vocalists: e.g., Sarah Brightman.

There is a reason this work was unknown until the 1950s. It is actually a modern composition.

A collection of Albinoni’s manuscripts, including some unpublished musical scores, had been housed in the Saxon State Library in Dresden, Germany. This library was a victim of the bombing of Dresden in February 1945. Although many of its treasures were sent out of Dresden before the bombing, Albinoni’s manuscripts were not and were lost in the firestorm.

Remo Giazotto, an Italian musicologist, had catalogues some of the manuscripts and authored a biography of Albinoni. In 1958, Giazotto introduced this piece as a work by Albinoni, which he had “arranged” from fragments of an unpublished trio sonata found in Albinoni’s papers.

Other musicologists who had worked with the Albinoni manuscripts before their loss were not so sure of this new find. Giazotto’s story then changed a little: he claimed that he had based the entire composition on nothing more than fragments of a bass line in an Albinoni manuscript, which he apparently attempted to pass off as having been sent to him for safekeeping when the library at Dresden dispersed many of its treasures. . .save that the Albinoni works had not been among those saved from the library’s destruction.

Anyway, I found it amusing that this piece was not really a baroque masterpiece, but a modern recreation. I don’t find that attributions to other composers (e.g Wassanaer’s Concerti Armonici that were attributed to Pergolesi or the String Quartet attributed to Haydn) detracts from the work. Good music is good music no matter the composer.


Posted 24/09/2010 by lacithedog in Baroque Music, Classical Music, music

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