Adagio in G minor
Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (8 June 1671 – 17 January 1751)

The Adagio in G minor for violin, strings and organ continuo, is a neo-Baroque composition popularly attributed to the 18th-century Venetian master Tomaso Albinoni, but composed by the 20th-century musicologist and Albinoni biographer Remo Giazotto and based on the purported discovery of a manuscript fragment from Albinoni.

Although the composition is often referred to as “Albinoni’s Adagio,” or “Adagio in G minor by Albinoni, arranged by Giazotto”, the attribution is incorrect. The ascription to Albinoni rests upon Giazotto’s purported discovery of a tiny manuscript fragment (consisting of a few opening measures of the melody line and basso continuo portion) from a slow second movement of an otherwise unknown Albinoni trio sonata. According to Giazotto, he obtained the document shortly after the end of World War II from the Saxon State Library in Dresden, which − though its buildings were destroyed in the bombing raids of February and March 1945 by the British and American Air Forces − had evacuated and preserved most of its collection. Giazotto concluded that the manuscript fragment was a portion of a church sonata (sonata da chiesa, one of two standard forms of the trio sonata) in G minor composed by Albinoni, possibly as part of his Op. 4 set, around 1708. In his account, Giazotto then constructed the balance of the complete single-movement work based on this fragmentary theme. He copyrighted it and published it in 1958, under a title which, translated into English, reads “Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ, on Two Thematic Ideas and on a Figured Bass by Tomaso Albinoni”. Giazotto never produced the manuscript fragment, and since his death in 1998 no official record of its presence in the collection of the Saxon State Library has been found. However, the discovery by musicologist Muska Mangano, Giazotto’s last assistant, of a modern but independent manuscript transcription of the figured bass portion and six fragmentary bars of the first violin, “bearing in the top right-hand corner a stamp stating unequivocally the Dresden provenance of the original from which it was taken,” provides some support for Giazotto’s account that Albinoni was his source. The scholarly consensus is that the Adagio is Giazotto’s composition, whatever source may have inspired him.
The piece is most commonly orchestrated for string ensemble and organ, or string ensemble alone, but has achieved a level of fame such that it is commonly transcribed for other instruments. The Italian conductor Ino Savini (1904–1995) transcribed the Adagio for a large orchestra and conducted the piece himself in Ostrava in 1967 with the Janáček Philharmonic.

The composition has also permeated popular culture, having been used as background music for such films as Gallipoli, in television programmes, and in advertisements.