I went to see ‘Manchester by the Sea’ a couple of days ago. During the tragic apex of the movie, up comes the background music. It’s music I’d heard many, many times before in other movies and so I was trying to figure out who wrote it… was this Beethoven? Handel?…
Curious to know for sure, I waited through to the credits at the end of the film – Albinoni’s Adagio. Wanting to know even more, I Googled it and much to my surprise found the Wikipedia entry was calling it a hoax! Apparently, this very famous piece was actually by an Italian musicologist named Remo Giazotto (1910-1998) who copyrighted it in 1958, not Tomaso Albinoni (1671–1751).
Furthermore, in a heated debate on Wikiwand (the editors forum for Wikipedia), somebody pointed out the striking similarity between bars found in Mozart’s Horn Concerto in Eb to the melody of the Adagio (see below). Did Giazotto simply morph Mozart onto his Adagio? Aside from the meter and tempo differences, Giazotto’s melody is the same amount of notes in the same relative proportion and sequence as Mozart’s. What are the odds of that happening, really? Perhaps the real genius and inspiration for the Albinoni Adagio melody is just a straight up lift from Mozart.
Albinoni Adagio – Excerpt
Mozart Horn Concerto – Excerpt
The whole thing came unravelled when there was a need to re-copyright the adagio. Giazotto copyrighted in 1958, as a reconstruction of Albinoni fragments, where he was the musicologist in charge. When it had to be re-copyrighted in 1979, he very interestingly copyrighted it as a complete composition by himself. He did not publicise the fact – he only died a few years ago, in fact, he lived into this century – and the truth of the matter is that there was no Albinoni in the piece at all. It will still go on being called the Albinoni Adagio, but it is, unfortunately, a Fifties’ fake.
— Christopher Hogwood (Fakes, Completions and the Art of Borrowing)