GABRIELI, Giovanni

(c. 1555-1612)
Giovanni Gabrieli served as organist at the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice for over two and a half decades, but it was his stature as a composer and teacher that made him one of the most important figures in European music at the turn of the seventeenth century. He was born in Venice, the nephew of Andrea Gabrieli, a prolific composer who served from 1566 as organist at St. Mark's. Like his uncle before him, Giovanni sojourned at the court of Duke Albrecht V in Munich, where he doubtless studied with Orlando di Lasso.* In 1585 he became organist of both St. Mark's and the religious confraternity of San Rocco in Venice, posts he retained for the rest of his life.
An uncommonly high proportion of instrumental music distinguished Gabrieli's oeuvre. In over sixty compositions for the organ he developed the styles and genres (canzona, ricercare, and toccata) cultivated by his uncle. He also composed about fifty canzonas and sonatas for the large contingent of virtuoso brass and string players at St. Mark's. But following the death of his uncle in 1585, Giovanni became the principal composer of large-scale Venetian cere­monial motets, and it was in this genre that he exerted his greatest influence. The majority of his nearly one hundred motets distribute their performing forces among two or more choirs and thus belong to the tradition of polychoral motets cultivated by Lasso and earlier Venetian composers. The significance of Gio­vanni's contributions to this tradition derives from their dramatic contrasts of texture, timbre, and meter. Instrumental doubling of vocal parts was common in the late sixteenth century, but in some of his later motets Gabrieli wrote lines specifically intended for instruments. His compositions assumed an exemplary status, and he became the most famous musician in a city known for the splendor of its music. The many students he attracted included Heinrich Schütz, the greatest German composer of the seventeenth century.
D. Arnold, Giovanni Gabrieli and the Music of the Venetian High Renaissance, 1979.
David Crook

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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