He was a composer thought to have been born in Venice, Italy,
where he had four siblings and his father had settled after moving from Carnia which is located in the Carnic
Alps on the Austrian border.
There is not a lot of information on his childhood but
it has been thought that he may have been raised by his uncle who was the
composer Andrea Gabrieli. With him, he would have had his
first musical education and he later dedicated his book of concerti and
motets (composed by them both) published in 1587 to him.
It is known that he went to the court of Duke Albert V
in Munich, Germany, in the 1570s, where he
remained for several years and studied with Orlando
de Lassus who had a great influence on him.
After he had returned to Venice he became employed at Saint
Mark’s Basilica in 1584 where he held the position of Principal
Organist and remained for the rest of his life. After his uncle passed away in 1585
he also took over his position as Principal Composer at the Basilica
alongside his own duties as organist.
The ensuing years saw him compiling, editing and publishing his
uncle’s compositions as he had never taken much interest in putting
his work in print while he was alive.
His own work at the Basilica brought him much attention to the
extent that before long he had become one of Europe’s
most eminent composers.
He took on a further lifetime position as the organist
and a composer for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco where many of the most famous musicians
and singers of Italy
After he had published his Sacrae symphoniae in 1597 there was an
influx of European composers, many of them German, coming to take their
musical studies with him in Venice,
including Heinrich Schutz. He taught them madrigals in the
Venetian style and also music which led to the popular Baroque period of
In the very early 17th century he began to
suffer health problems and there would often have to be substitutes brought
in by the church to cover for him.
This carried on for several years from 1606 and then in 1612, when
he was in his late 50s, he passed away suffering from a kidney stone and
subsequent complications from it.
He left behind him a legacy of innovative secular and
sacred vocal music and many instrumental works including 94 motets, more
than 60 ricercares and toccatas, 50 canzonas and sonatas, 30 madrigals, 7 mass movements, 7
Magnificats, what is thought to be the first concertato and first basso continuo which saw the
beginnings of the Baroque style and was introduced to other European
countries by his students. He
was also seen as a pioneer of positioning and arranging groups of multiple
choirs and musicians to obtain the maximum clarity in Saint Mark’s
The Principal Brass of the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony
Canzon in Double Echo (Giovanni Gabrieli)
Arranger – Arthur Frackenpohl
CBS MY 44931 (CD: Monteverdi/Gabrieli: