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Gabrieli, Giovanni (c1554-7/12th August 1612)

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 diSan Rocco where many of the most famous musicians and singers of Italy performed.

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 music.

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 Basilica.

The Principal Brass of the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestra recordings
Canzon in Double Echo (Giovanni Gabrieli)
Arranger – Arthur Frackenpohl
CBS MY 44931 (CD: Monteverdi/Gabrieli: Antiphonal Music)