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G 12.039 CoverTommaso Albinoni (1671–1751)
12 Sonatas, Vol. I (Sonatas 1–4)

for 3 recorders (AAT), bass recorder ad lib. and basso continuo
Edited by Peter Thalheimer

Girolamo G 12.039, score and 5 parts, € 29,00
ISMN 979-0-50084-067-1

sample page

G 12.038 G 12.040




Tommaso Albinoni was born in Venice in 1671 and died in this town in 1751. In his earlier years, he called himself dilettante, and later on, musico di violino. Where he received his training as a violinist, singer and composer is unknown. He worked mostly in his home town, but never held a permanent post at any church or court institution. Evidence shows him to be working in Munich around 1720/1722.

Operas and instrumental pieces constitute the major part of his work. The ten series of instrumental works printed during Albinoni's lifetime were composed for various combinations of string instruments. In addition, further works have survived in hand-written form and without opus numbers. Amongst these are 12 four-part Sonatas or Balletti1 for two violins, viola and basso continuo, which were composed before 1728. They have been preserved in a complete part set held in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, and a part book for the first violin2 in the Music Library at the University of California in Berkeley. The sonatas for strings were subsequently adapted by an unknown arranger for three recorders and basso continuo. At some time before 1740, this version for recorders became part of the music collection of the Earl Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn (1677–1754)3. More detailed information on the sources can be found on page 25.

Albinoni's sonatas were transposed up by the unknown arranger, some by a minor third, some by a fourth, and their tonal range was adapted to that available on a recorder. However, numerous writing and transposition errors in the version for recorders suggest that this manuscript was never actually played from. For the present edition, the musical score was corrected on the basis of the version for strings. A detailed revision summary can be found at:

In some older bibliographies the version for wind instruments of the 12 sonatas is ascribed to flutes. However, the Flauto primo and Flauto secondo parts are clearly intended for treble recorders in f1. This follows from several details of the arrangement: In both of the upper parts, g-sharp1, f-sharp1 and tones below f1 are avoided, as was f3, which is difficult to play on many f1 recorders built in the period before 1720. The Flauto terzo part is intended for a c1 tenor recorder, but written a fourth higher than it is meant to sound, so that it could be played using the fingering of a treble recorder. This notation was common throughout Germany, England and France for all recorder sizes other than those in F.

Apart from the mentioned octave changes of the melodic line in the first recorder, the arranger used octave transpositions in the second and third parts, so that the parts would not fall below f1 or c1, respectively. This occasionally led to voice crossing with the first recorder and other problems with part-writing. Some of the arranger's modifications were reversed on the basis of the version for strings. Details can be found in the audit report.

The tonal range of the Basso part was limited in the arrangement to D–e1. Where the transposition of the basso continuo part resulted in higher tones, these were transposed to the lower octave. In some cases, e1 is also avoided. The part is probably written for a bass instrument playing at 8-foot pitch, such as a viol or a bassoon. The prime reason against the exclusive use of a bass recorder is the frequent occurrence of voice cross-overs with the tenor recorder when a bass recorder playing at 4-foot pitch is used.

The instrumentation of the foundation part should normally include a chord instrument, even if there is no reference to this effect and no continuo figuring in the Basso part of the recorder version. This is supported by the fact that some of the final chords in the four-part setting have been written without the third. The present edition therefore includes, in addition to the Basso part, the figured bass of the version for strings, transposed into the key of the recorder version. Hence, the sonatas can be performed with the following combination of instruments:

– 3 recorders in f1-f1-c1 with basso continuo (keyboard instrument or lute, with or without a bass melody instrument playing at 8-foot pitch, if desired with Basso-part played by a bass recorder at 4-foot pitch)
– 3 recorders in f1-f1-c1 with bass instrument playing at 8-foot pitch (viola da gamba, violoncello, bassoon, subbass recorder), played from the basso continuo or Basso-part, without chord instrument
– f1-f1-c1-f0 recorders playing several to a part, including subbass recorder, with or without basso continuo

Some of the movements, in which there are no cross-overs between tenor and bass parts, may be played by a bass recorder at octave-transposing pitch, without 8-foot bass instrument.

The combination of two treble and a tenor recorder, with basso continuo played by a bass recorder or bassoon, seems to have been relatively widespread in the early 18th century in Germany. In addition to a suite by Johann Christian Witt, this instrumentation was used, for example by Johann Peter Guzinger, Carlo Luigi Pietragrua, Johann Hugo von Wilderer or Georg Philipp Telemann as accompaniment for arias in operas and cantatas, and the unknown arranger has possibly tied in with these examples.

Thanks go to the Earl of Schönborn, the Austrian National Library, Vienna, and the Music Library at the University of California, Berkeley, for kindly granting permission for the publication of this edition.

Translation: Christa Lange-Rudd

Ilshofen, September 2014, Peter Thalheimer


1 Reflecting the title page of the Berkeley manuscript as well as other works of Albinoni, Franco Rossi, calls the pieces Balletti, cf. Franco Rossi: Catalogo tematico delle composizioni di Tomaso Albinoni (1671–1750), Parte II: Le opere strumentali manoscritte, Le opere vocali, I libretti; Padova 2003, pages 273ff.

2 Erroneously attributed to Arcangelo Corelli on the title page.

3 Die Musikalien der Grafen von Schönborn-Wiesentheid. Thematisch-bibliographischer Katalog, edited by Fritz Zobeley, Part I: Das Repertoire des Grafen Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn (1677–1754) Volume 1: Drucke aus den Jahren 1676 bis 1738; Tutzing 1967, p. V.