Posted by Mindy

WE’VE LOOKED into Bach’s life and the musical influences in his life. Now we meet one of those people: Tomaso Albinoni!

Happy Birthday, Albinoni!  

He was born today, June 8, 1671.


Tomaso was born into a financially secure family of Venice, Italy in 1671. As a boy, like other boys of his time who grew up to be composers, he studied music. He studied the violin and singing.  Other Baroque composers, composers of his era, were Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, George Phillip Telemann, and Vivaldi.

As his family was in the paper making business, I wonder if he had more access to printed music than his contemporaries? You may recall young Johann Sebastian, born when Tomaso was a teenager, who hand copied out his music.  Not very much is known of Albinoni’s youth.

In those days composers and musicians would seek positions with a royal court or with a church. George Frederick Handel worked for King George II of England. Johann Sebastian Bach worked for both a German duke and had church music positions during his lifetime, composing music on demand and on a schedule for their events. On the other hand, Albinoni, since he was well off, he didn’t have to seek a paying position. He was able to compose music according to his interests.

We think of Albinoni’s Adagio for Organ and Strings, but what Albinoni was most known for in his day were his Italian operas! Italian opera had become so popular around 1700 that George Handel even traveled the long distance from England to Italy to study Italian opera. Handel wasn’t so well known yet, and as Albinoni was in one part of Italy and George in another, it doesn’t appear that they crossed paths.


But what is Albinoni most known for?

This glorious composition:  Adagio for Organ and Strings in D minor  Conducted by Herbert van Karajan

What a quiet, but very moving piece!


Composers of that day, just like composers/song writers of today, borrow ideas from each other. Bach came across Albinoni’s music and even borrowed two of his musical ideas for two of his compositions. But–surprise! This piece, the Adagio which you just listened to, for which Albinoni is most known, may not even have been composed by him! There’s a question that it was not composed by Albinoni, but composed by the 20th-century musicologist and Albinoni biographer Remo Giazotto, who based it on the purported discovery of a manuscript fragment from Albinoni. Giazotto published it in 1958!


Here are two beautiful pieces which Albinoni certainly composed:

Trio Sonata number 5 in C, Opus 1 for violins, violincello,

and harpsichord 






Concerto Opus 7, No. 2 C major for 2 oboes and strings

This is a Baroque oboe: 







You can see ladies behind her dressed in the period clothes of that day, too!

Watch for an interesting interview with the oboist, Janine Krause, in the near future.  Her story as to how she started music is very inspiring, especially for homeschool and military parents.

By the time Albinoni died on January 17, 1751

  • The thirteen original American colonies are now formed.
  • George Washington is a young man, 19 years old, working as a Virginia surveyor.
  • The future King George III of England, who went to war against the colonies, is now 13 years old
  • People in Boston are singing the hymns of Williams Billings, some of which folks at my church still sing today!


And have you noticed how many men of that time wore those big wigs?