Albinoni’s Adagio – towards a new setting of some musical fragments

Albinoni/Giazotto Adagio – Intro

Albinoni's Adagio - last section

The Albinoni/Giazotto Adagio plays, of course, a different cultural role than Beethovens Fifth Symphony. The melancholic music of the Adagio is widely spread and has in a sense become public property as a result of this. The music can be found in innumerable versions from ‘favourite baroque collections’ to concept CDs like ‘quiet moments’ etc. We hear it in elevators and in shopping malls, in concert halls and in different pop-cultural surroundings. It has become a part of the sound-tapestry that surrounds us.

Giazotto claimed at first that he had transcribed the whole piece from a manuscript fragment by Albinoni but later on changed his story, admitting that he had found only the bass line and the first six bars of the score.

Giazotto wrote a systematic catalogue over the music of Tomaso Albinoni and maybe the whole piece is an ‘archaeological finding’ originally buried in the archives by Giazotto himself. The piece has of course some parts that could be attributed to Albinoni but it also has features more connected to the way a lot of baroque music was interpreted in the 1930s and 1940s.

I will take some of the baroque fragments and let a guitar and oboe feature as front ‘singers’ in a new setting that is in turn inspired by some of the musical shadows that Giazotto conveys through his music. Some fragments of the music will re-appear in new situations, in the same way as Giazotto allegedly used the Albinoni fragments. The aim of these changes is again a hope to be able to hear some of the music beneath the superimposed cultural layers of now readymade nostalgia. (see the Doors video)

As discussed in the introduction, a metaphoric strategy would be to see the outer and
more paradigmatic musical implications of the material. This involves looking for musical and historical connotations that can enhance and put into perspective some of the material in the new setting. A metaphorical inspiration in the middle part sees the sixteenth note ‘quasi cadenza’ linking to other musics and cultural contexts, a reference is made, for instance, to its proximity to maqam Shadd Araban (Hijaz on G).

Another association, made quite spontaneously in the next to last section of the Adagio, is to Mahler's Symphony No.5 fourth movement (adagietto).

The pictures and musical examples that, below and on the right, are formed in a metaphorical and associative circle around the two arrows, biting each other’s tails, should be viewed upon as examples of what has come up when reflecting around a new setting of the Adagio.

In the above section of Albinoni’s Adagio, a musical window to the late romantic era is opened. The suspensions and passing tones in the Adagio makes you think of Mahlers Adagietto, conjuring a different time frame.

‘The Doors’ –

In associating around the ‘Adagio’ and it's different settings, this video by The Doors comes up as one of my inverted favourites, pointing to the multi layered kitsch that it contains. The sentimentality of the piece is here transported into a form of distorted romanticism, pointing towards a
home brewed ‘New age’-philosophy. In many ways this video sums up a lot of the different usages of the music lying in the titles of CD collections like ‘Rythms for life’ and ‘Music for relaxing’.

Mahler's Adagietto - ending

In my own setting of the ‘Adagio’ I will try to resurrect some of the sentimentality of the piece. Not as nostalgia, but in trying to bring out and emphasize more of the truly melancholic features of the music.

The middle section of the Adagio with the quasi cadenza of the first violin references Arabic scales.

Also the general setting with a single melodic line hovering over a drone makes your thoughts drift towards Arabic maqams.

Albinoni's Adagio - middle section

The melancholic landscape

In her book ‘Melankoliska rum’ (Eng: ‘
 Melancholy rooms’) the writer Karin Johannisson describes, in the chapter ‘Late modern melancholy (white),’ modern man s relationship to melancholic emptiness.

“When Freud wants to describe the difference between sorrow and melancholy his discussion revolves around emptiness. Freud: ‘When in sorrow it is the world that has become empty but when in melancholy it is the ego itself that is empty.’ (Freud in Sadness and Melancholy)… Consumer society can live high on this classical melancholic theme: an endless longing to satisfy and infinite emptiness to fill with substitutes. A pale white-colour is placed over reality, a glossy light without shadows.”

She continues:
“The fragile ego in a fragile world is the most repeated theme of today (and it is most reluctantly that I re-repeat it here). The grand tales about God, world peace and the general progress of society is over and no new story can reconcile the escalating conflicts and increased differences. Consumer society closes itself around the ego as a cage. The critical discussion on culture moves around the expressions of depression: fantasies around violence, death and flight, white books on sorrow, sickness and self wounding behaviour, nostalgia and virtual worlds as means of flight.” (Johannisson 2009, 62)


Albrecht Dürer and Anselm Kiefer

Hultqvist: ​The Pleading of the summer – Intro
A musical ‘landscape’ sets the ground for melodic construction and improvisation.

Melancholic landscapes: urban and musical artefacts
A sound installation by the Urban Sound Institute(Usit) at Järntorget, Göteborg

Taqsim on the violin​, maqams of Syria