Gabrieli, Andrea and Giovanni (Andrea Gabrieli, c. 1532/33–1585; Giovanni Gabrieli, c. 1554/57–1612)

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GABRIELI, ANDREA AND GIOVANNI (Andrea Gabrieli, c. 1532/331585; Giovanni Gabrieli, c. 1554/571612)

GABRIELI, ANDREA AND GIOVANNI (Andrea Gabrieli, c. 1532/331585; Giovanni Gabrieli, c. 1554/571612), Italian composers and organists noted for the grandeur of their sacred and ceremonial music. Andrea Gabrieli and his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli were leading figures in Venetian music and influenced the development of seventeenth-century German music as well. Most likely a native of Venice, Andrea may have been in Verona during the 1550s (as indicated by the publication there of his earliest known madrigal and his probable association with the Accademia Filharmonica of Verona), and in Munich in 1562 at the court of Albert V, duke of Bavaria, where he met Orlando di Lasso (c. 15321594), the most famous composer of the era. By 1566, Andrea was appointed as one of the two permanent organists at the Basilica of St. Mark's in Venice, a position he held until his death, and was followed in this position by his nephew Giovanni. Andrea established a line of native Venetian musicians working at St. Mark's after a period of dominance by northern masters.

As a composer, Andrea Gabrieli wrote in most of the musical genres of his day, including masses, psalms, motets, madrigals, and many instrumental works, most for solo keyboard. He composed both small- and large-scale works, including polychoral music employing the technique of cori spezzati (split choirs) that exploited the spatial separation of two or more choirs through chordal textures, syllabic text setting, and short imitative dialogues between performing groups.

Many of his compositions were published posthumously in the Concerti (1587), a collection of large-scale vocal works (sacred and secular) and instrumental works, edited by his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli. The collection includes madrigals as well as settings of liturgical texts for major feast days in Venice (Christmas, Easter, St. Mark's, Corpus Christi, Marian feasts). It also contains ceremonial music for events of church and state in Venice, including occasional works to Italian texts in commemoration of state visits by Archduke Charles of Austria in 1565 or 1569 and by the French king Henry III in 1574, a motet for the new Franciscan Church of the Redentore (built 15771592) designed by architect Andrea Palladio (15081580) erected to celebrate the end of a plague epidemic in 1577, and a series of mass movements perhaps written to honor the state visit of five Japanese princes in 1585.

The compositions that Andrea Gabrieli wrote for instrumental ensemble and solo keyboard are important to the development of independent instrumental genres. His intonazioni (preludes) and many of his toccatas are free, improvisatory pieces, while his ricercars and canzonas feature fugal writing (that is, with musical phrases imitated in two or more voices). Andrea's music remained in print until the mid-seventeenth century, published in Germany and the Low Countries as well as in Italy. He was a renowned teacher whose students included German composers Hans Leo Hassler (15641612) and Gregor Aichinger (1564/651628), music theorist Lodovico Zacconi (15551627), and his own nephew Giovanni.

Giovanni Gabrieli was once thought to be of patrician origins; however, the recent discovery of the identity of his father as Piero di Fais, called Gabrieli, confirms that the family was not of Venetian nobility. Giovanni followed in the footsteps of his uncle Andrea, working first at the Munich court of Albert V under Orlando di Lasso, then returning to Venice to become organist at St. Mark's beginning in 1584 (a position made permanent in 1585) until his death in 1612. In the year 1585, the two Gabrielis served together for several months as organists at the basilica. Giovanni described himself as "little less than a son" of Andrea, whose music he edited for publication in 1587, along with some of his own compositions. Giovanni's duties included composing ceremonial music for St. Mark's, much of which was published in two monumental collections: Sacrae Symphoniae (1597) and Symphoniae Sacrae (1615). Giovanni also held the post of organist for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco from 1585 on, and some of this music served the confraternity on high feast days. Like Andrea, Giovanni was a preeminent teacher whose reputation reached far beyond the Veneto; the most famous of his northern students was German composer Heinrich Schütz (15851672).

The close connection between church and state in Venice, emphasized by the proximity of the ducal palace to St. Mark's, led to sumptuous religious and civic celebrations accompanied by vocal and instrumental music and splendid pageantry. Gabrieli wrote several grand motets for the feast of St. Mark, the city's patron, and for Ascension Day festivities, on which occasion the famous ceremony of the Wedding of Venice to the Sea took place, when the doge cast a ring into the lagoon to be retrieved by a young fisherman, symbolizing the domination of the Venetian Republic over the Adriatic after conquering Dalmatia in the year 1000. Francesco Sansovino, in volume 12 of his 1581 guidebook to Venice, Venetia città nobilissima, described one such commemoration performed with the "two famous organs of the church, and the other instruments [which] made the most excellent music, in which the best singers and players that can be found in this region took part." The description refers to performances with some musicians positioned in choir lofts on either side of the nave, each with a pipe organ, in addition to the musicians on the floor. Gabrieli's polychoral motet O quam suavis (1615), for two choirs and instruments, sets a text for vespers on the Feast of Corpus Christi, an occasion that called for a grandiose procession (andata) in St. Mark's Square in which all the clergy, confraternities, and civic dignitaries took part. The participation of singers and instrumentalists on the Feast of St. Mark's (April 25) was captured by Gentile Bellini (c. 14291507) in his well-known painting Procession of the True Cross in the Piazza San Marco (1496), commemorating this event and the miraculous healing powers of the True Cross of the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista.

Giovanni Gabrieli's output of instrumental music was remarkable. His ensemble canzonas and sonatas exploited the rich musical resources of St. Mark's and were meant for ceremonial performance on high feast days. Giovanni was among the first composers to specify instrumentation in his works: his Sonate pian e forte (1597) calls for two instrumental choirs (violin with three trombones, and cornetto with three trombones) and is one of the earliest compositions to include dynamic markings.

Although Giovanni shunned the lighter secular forms of villanella and canzonetta, his madrigals were included in a number of anthologies. Several of these works celebrate eminent acquaintances, including the powerful Augsburg banker Jacob Fugger (15421598), who was the dedicatee of the Concerti (1587).

Giovanni's later works show early baroque characteristics of florid solo writing set against larger forces, and the use of organ basso continuo. After Claudio Monteverdi (15671643) was appointed choirmaster at St. Mark's in 1613, the influence of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli began to wane in Italy, and the more dramatic, mannerist style of Monteverdi began to transform Italian music; however, their impact remained significant on musical styles in the north.

See also Baroque ; Monteverdi, Claudio ; Music ; Schütz, Heinrich ; Venice .


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Bryant, David. "The cori spezzati of S. Marco: Myth and Reality." Early Music History 1 (1981): 165186.

. "Gabrieli, Andrea" and "Gabrieli, Giovanni," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd ed. Edited by Stanley Sadie. Vol. 9, pp. 384396. London, 2001.

Charteris, Richard. "Newly Discovered Works by Giovanni Gabrieli." Music and Letters 68 (1987): 343363.

Morell, Martin. "New Evidence for the Biographies of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli." Early Music History 3 (1983): 101122.

Selfridge-Field, Eleanor. Venetian Instrumental Music from Gabrieli to Vivaldi. 3rd ed. New York, 1994.

Kristine K. Forney

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Gabrieli, Andrea and Giovanni (Andrea Gabrieli, c. 1532/33–1585; Giovanni Gabrieli, c. 1554/57–1612)

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