Though little known today outside of his instrumental works,
Tomaso Albinoni was once considered a master equal in stature to Arcangelo
Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi. The oldest son of a wealthy Venetian paper
merchant, Albinoni was accorded the rare luxury of pursuing music without
financial concerns. He never sought employment at a church or court, and
consequently produced music of remarkable individuality, despite his prolific
rate of composing.
Little is known of Albinoni's life, despite his career being
contemporaneous with many of the late Baroque's greatest masters and the
relatively well-documented period of the early 18th century. Born in
Venice on June 8, 1671, Albinoni studied both violin and singing, and
reportedly developed a fine technique on the former. He initially set out to
establish himself as a composer of sacred music but was unsuccessful. However,
he soon found his niche as an opera composer. Composing a staggering number of
roughly eighty operas during his career, his works were highly original. His
fame as an operatic composer grew and his operas spread throughout the Italian
Peninsula, being performed in Venice, Genoa, Bologna and Naples. His success
eventually took him to Munich for productions of his I veri amici in honor of the marriage of the Prince Elector of
In addition to his many operas, Albinoni also composed a
large number of instrumental pieces, particularly sonatas and concerti, and for
which he is primarily known today. Most important among these are his concerti
for oboe, in which he was the first Italian composer to treat the instrument as
a lyrical soloist. His compositions were also highly regarded by Johann
Sebastian Bach. Bach composed two fugues on themes by Albinoni, and also frequently
used Albinoni's figured basses as exercises for his pupils.
Albinoni was originally thought to have died prior to 1740
because of a posthumous collection of sonatas published in Paris in that year.
However, Albinoni in fact still resided in Venice, albeit in obscurity. Tomaso
Albinoni died on January 17, 1751.
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