Gabrieli, Giovanni

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Pioneer baroque church composer whose creative innovations forwarded virtually every musical form; b. Venice, c. 1557; d. Venice, Aug. 12, 1612. He was the nephew and pupil of Andrea gabrieli, his only known relative, and rounded out his education in the Bavarian ducal chapel under lasso. In 1585, when Andrea Gabrieli succeeded merulo as first organist at St. Mark's in Venice, Giovanni succeeded his uncle at the second organ and kept this post until his death. He published chiefly his uncle's works and only a few of his own; many of his MSS disappeared during Napoleon's occupation of Venice. Preserved are 2 Mass fragments, 7 Magnificats (parts of 3 more), 1 litany, and some 85 symphoniae sacrae, choral works with or without instrumentation, destined for the Proper, Offices, and specifically Venetian holidays. Next in importance are his instrumental works: some 40 for organ and 37 for ensembles of from 8 to 22 parts. He produced also 30 madrigals (one a spiritual madrigal) and excelled in the Venetian dialogue and echo-madrigal.

The strong long-range influence of his printed output was in surprising contrast with its small quantity. The sacrae symphoniae, with their instrumental preludes and interludes, alternation of vocal solos, duets, and choirs, homophonic texture, and basso per l'organo, shaped the evolution of the baroque cantata perfected by J. S. bach. His stylistic innovations appear in initial and end repetition, recapitulation of the beginning at the end, ritornels, and use of register levels developed in the divided-choir technique for structural purposes. He assigned instrumental parts to specific instruments (first attempt at orchestration) and was one of the first to use dynamic signs, and the first to differentiate between canzone and sonata and to use sequential episodes in ricercari. Two top parts in imitation foreshadow the trio-sonata form basic to later baroque composition. His harmony is clear and simple; chromaticism is reserved for expressiveness in vocal works, while chordal declamation used in choral works is transferred to instrumental ensembles. These and other departures from tradition were soon reflected in the work of his many northern pupils, especially that of Heinrich schÜtz.

Bibliography: Opera omnia, ed. d. arnold, 3 v. (Corpus mensurabilis musicae, ed. American Institute of Musicology, v. 112.112.3; 195662). c. g. a. von winterfeld, Johannes Gabrieli und sein Zeitalter, 3 v. in 2 (Berlin 1834). e. f. kenton, Giovanni Gabrieli: His Life and Works (Rome 1966); "The Late Style of G. Gabrieli," Musical Quarterly (New York 1915) 48 (1962) 427443. d. arnold, "Music at the Scuola di San Rocco," Music and Letters 40 (1959) 229241. g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (rev. ed. New York 1959). Histoire de la musique, ed. roland-manuel, 2 v. (Paris 196063); v. 9, 16 of Encyclopédie de la Pléiade v. 1. Enciclopedia della Musica (Milan 1963). d. arnold and e. m. arnold, "Giovanni Gabrielli," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. s. sadie, v. 7 (New York 1980) 5460. r. charteris, "Newly Discovered Manuscript Parts and Annotations in a Copy of Giovanni Gabrieli's Symphoniae sacrae (1615)" Early Music 23 (1995) 487496. h. pyun, "Modal Structure in Sixteen Instrumental Works from Giovanni Gabrielli's Sacrae Symphoniae (1597)" (Ph.D. diss. Rutgers University 1994). d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, Mass. 1996) 289. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (8th ed. New York 1992) 589.

[e. f. kenton]

Giovanni Gabrieli

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Giovanni Gabrieli

The works of the Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli (ca. 1557-1612) mirror the transition from the 16th-century Renaissance style to the 17th-centurybaroque. His compositions were very influential on Italian and German masters.

Giovanni Gabrieli was born in Venice. He was associated with the court chapel of Roland de Lassus in Munich (1576-1580). Despite this important contact, the formative influence on the young Giovanni was his uncle Andrea Gabrieli, whose career as composer and organist anticipated his own. Giovanni's devotion to Andrea is witnessed by a collection of concerti (1587) issued by the younger man from among his own works and those of the older man, dead but a year.

Like his uncle, Giovanni worked in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Venice, first as deputy to the famed master Claudio Merulo (1584), then as second organist (1585), and finally as first organist (1586). He also composed vocal and instrumental pieces for church and state festivities and taught a young generation of composers the new musical idioms of the baroque. He died in Venice on Aug. 12, 1612.

Only a few of Gabrieli's secular vocal pieces have survived. But a collection of madrigals by his student Heinrich Schütz, printed in 1611 as the fruits of an apprenticeship with Gabrieli, suggests that the teacher was deeply interested in the genre. Among Gabrieli's madrigals is the eight-voice Lieto godea for two choruses. Here, as in the sacred pieces, antiphonal effects, created by means of vertical, chordal combinations, replace the linear movement of the older polyphonists.

Many more of Gabrieli's instrumental pieces have survived, including numerous canzonas, ricercars, and sonatas. Some early canzonas such as La Spiritata are conventional, sectional pieces in imitative, multithematic polyphony. Several of the monothematic ricercars, on the other hand, are virtually forerunners of the latebaroque fugue. Of particular interest is Gabrieli's Sonata piano e forte, the first composition ever to bear this title. In addition to marking dynamics throughout the individual parts, the composer prescribed the instrumentation of the sonata—a novel departure from Renaissance practice, in which instrumentation was usually an ad libitum matter. Among his late instrumental pieces is a Sonata con tre violini e basso se piace, for which the master made the decisive turn to the basso continuo, the foundation voice of most baroque music.

Of all Gabrieli's works, first place must go to the motets. Polychoral writing (cori spezzati), as promulgated by Adrian Willaert and continued by Andrea Gabrieli, found its most brilliant exponent in Giovanni Gabrieli. In his collection Sacrae symphoniae (1597) there were motets for six to sixteen parts and arranged for one to four choruses. For these works he replaced the older, imitative, melismatic polyphony of the Franco-Flemish school by syllabic, harmonic writing. Bass parts moving in fourths and fifths supported separated choirs responding antiphonally to one another in short, declamatory phrases. For Gabrieli, who designed his creations for large spaces, traditional counterpoint was less important than dramatic changes in texture and dynamics.

Gabrieli's second volume of Sacrae symphoniae, printed posthumously (1615), contains early as well as late pieces in the new concerted idiom. Characteristic of the late compositions are the juxtaposition of voices and instruments, virtuoso solo writing, and the basso continuo.

The motet In ecclesiis reveals most of the innovations of Gabrieli's late style: solos and duets supported by organ (basso continuo) or instrumental ensemble; a solo quartet of voices responding to or joining the chorus; and instrumental ensembles accompanying the singers or playing independent sinfonie. With such a work resplendent with color, Gabrieli helped inaugurate a new musical epoch that was carried forward by many 17th-century Roman masters and, even more significantly, by the Germans Heinrich Schütz and Michael Praetorius.

Further Reading

Gabrieli's musical development is treated in Egon Kenton, Life and Works of Giovanni Gabrieli (1967). Information on Gabrieli is also in Manfred F. Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era (1947), and Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance (1954; rev. ed. 1959). □

Gabrieli, Giovanni

views updated May 29 2018

Gabrieli, Giovanni

Gabrieli, Giovanni, celebrated Italian organist, composer, and teacher, nephew of Andrea Gabrieli; b. Venice, c. 1555; d. there, Aug. 12, 1612. He received training from his uncle. He lived in Munich from 1575 to 1579. On Nov. 1, 1584, he was engaged to substitute for Merulo as 1st organist at S. Marco in Venice. On Jan. 1, 1585, he was permanently appointed as 2nd organist (his uncle meanwhile took charge of the 1st organ), and retained this post until his death. As a composer, he stands at the head of the Venetian school; he was probably the first to write vocal works with parts for instrumental groups in various combinations, partly specified, partly left to the conductor, used as accompaniment as well as interspersed instrumental sinfonie (Sacrae symphoniae). His role as a composer and teacher is epoch-making; through his innovations and his development of procedures and devices invented by others (free handling of several choirs in the many-voiced vocal works, “concerted” solo parts and duets in the few-voiced vocal works, trio-sonata texture, novel dissonance treatment, speech rhythm, root progressions in fifths, use of tonal and range levels for structural purposes, coloristic effects) and through his numerous German pupils (particularly Schutz) and other transal-pine followers, he gave a new direction to the development of music. His instrumental music helped to spark the composition of German instrumental ensemble music, which reached its apex in the symphonic and chamber music works of the Classical masters. Of interest also is the fact that one of his ricercari, a 4-part work in the 10th tone (1595), is an early example of the “fugue with episodes.” Many of his works also appeared in various collections of the period. The Opera Omnia began publication in 1956 in the Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae series.


VOCAL Sacred : Concerti… continenti musica di chiesa, madrigali, & altro…libra primo et secondo for 6 to 8, 10, 12, and 16 Voices, and Instruments (Venice, 1587); Sacrae symphoniae for 6 to 8, 10, 12, and 14 to 16 Voices, and Instruments (Venice, 1597); Symphoniae sacrae…liber secundus for 7, 8, 10 to 17, and 19 Voices, and Instruments (Venice, 1615). S e c u l a r : Concerti…continenti musica di chiesa, madrigali, & altro…primo et secondo for 6 to 8, 10, 12, and 16 Voices, and Instruments (Venice, 1587). INSTRUMENTAL : Sacrae symphoniae for 6 to 8, 10, 12, and 14 to 16 Voices, and Instruments (Venice, 1597); Intonationi d’organo…libra primo (Venice, 1593); Canzoni et sonate for 3, 5 to 8,10,12,14,15, and 22 Instruments, with Basso Continuo (organ) (Venice, 1615).


J. Flower, G. G.’s Sacrae Symphoniae (1597) (diss., Univ. of Mich., 1955); S. Kunze, Die Instrumentalmusik G. G.s (Tutzing, 1963); E. Kenton, Life and Works ofG. G., Musicological Studies and Documents, XVI (1967); D. Arnold, G. G. (London, 1974); W.Miiller-Blattau, Tonsazt und Klanggestaltung bei G. G. (Kassel, 1975); D. Arnold, G. G. and the Music of the Venetian High Renaissance (Oxford, 1979); P. Manzini, G. G.: II suo linguaggio musicale (Genoa, 1984); R. Charteris, G. G. (ca. 1555–1612): A Thematic Catalog of his Music with A Guide to the Source Materials, and Translations of his Vocal Texts (N.Y., 1996).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Gabrieli, Giovanni

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Gabrieli, Giovanni (b Venice, c.1554; d Venice, 1612). It. composer and organist, nephew of A. Gabrieli whose pupil he was. Second org., St Mark's, Venice, from 1585. One of the great Venetian composers of motets with instr. accs. His mus. made use of the special antiphonal effects of vv. and brass obtainable in St Mark's. Comps. incl. Canzone for various combinations; 2 sets of Sacrae symphoniae (1597 and 1615), the first set containing the celebrated Sonata pian' e forte alla quarta bassa; concertos; and many motets incl. Angelus ad pastores, O magnum mysterium, Exaudi Deus, Hodie Christus natus est, Jubilate Deo, Regina coeli, Sancta et immaculata virginitas, etc. Also wrote many secular madrigals. Pupils incl. Schütz and Praetorius.

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