Spotlight on the Netherlands: Giovanni Gabrieli

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Program: #07-07   Air Date: Feb 05, 2006

Another "big sound" concert as La Fenice joins the Chamber Choir of Namur in a recreation of the massive services at San Marco created for feast days by the great Gabrieli.

We continue our long and fruitful association with our partners at Radio Netherlands in presenting a series of concerts from the 2006 Holland Festival of Early Music at Utrecht.

We will also direct listeners to their web site, which will provide more in-depth information about the music and performers we hear as well as more information about the festival (

For its 25th anniversary, the entire 2006 Festival was dedicated to the early Italian 17th century.

NOTE: All of the music on this program was performed by the ensemble La Fenice with the Chamber Choir of Namur directed by Jean Tubery, and is dedicated to the work of Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1555/7-1615). As the program notes:

Giovanni Gabrieli was a man of big statements, the architect of the grand "San Marco sound." He trained with his cousin Andrea and improved his style with Lassus in Munich., where he familiarized himself with the complex polyphony of the Netherlands. In 1584, he returned to Venice, and in 1585 was appointed to the post he held the rest of his life, organist at San Marco.

Giovanni's fame as a composer--instead that of an organist--was the result of his preferences. First, he gave instrumental music a prominent place next to vocal genres. His Sacrae symphoniae can be grouped with his most important works. Second, Gabrieli was a true master of polychoral composition (known as cori spezzati). While he let go of complex Renaissance counterpoint, he did not yet give the prominence allotted by Monteverdi. For Gabrieli, the effect of the music, rather than the words, was the most important.

The reason for this is importance is implied by the status of Venice around the turn of the century. The small city state had developed into a mercantile and cultural center, but at the same time it had retained its independence from Rome on matters of religion. Power was not in the hands of a ruling dynasty, but distributed among oligarchs who, one after another, acted as the city's Doge (both the political and religious head of state). Outrageously flaunting both their own and the city's wealth was far from uncommon, a tradition happily exploited by the cultural community.

Gabrieli worked during the rule of Marino Grimaldi, known as one of the most extravagant Doges, especially when it came to the festive processions to confirm the power of both the city and the Doge himself. This Andata in trionfo included everybody of note and ended with a concert of lush sacred music. Gabrieli had free rein in booking the best musicians, notably brass players. While the Canzon decima a 8 place the human voice at the root of the melodic material, his last motets (like "In ecclesis") are daunting contractions built equally of instruments and vocal parts.

The Gabrieli works are interspersed with chant pieces taken from Psalterium Davidicum, ad usum ecclesiae ducalis Sancti Marci Venetiarum (Venice, 1609). They will be indicated by italics--all other works by Gabrieli.

Domenica Palmarum (Palm Sunday)
--Magno salutis Gaudio
--In ecclesiis, motetto a 14 voci.

Sabbato in albis (Saturday in the Octave of Easter)
--Ad cenam Agni providi
--Canzon primi toni a 8 voci in due cori, 1597.
--Rex sempiterne Domini
--Exultet Jam angelica turba, a 14 o 17 voci.
--Aurora lucis rutilat

Ascentionis Domini (Feast of the Ascension)
--Canzon decima a 8.
--Festum nunc celebre
--Jubilate Deo omnis terra, a 10 voci.
--Canzon duodecimi toni a 10 voci, 1597.
--Aeterne Rex altissime
--Plaudite, psallite, Mottetto a 12 voci in 3 cori, 1597.
--Canzon settima a 7 voci.
--Jam Christus astra ascenderat.
--Regina coeli laetare, alleluia a 12 voci in due cori, 1597.
--Canzon ottava a 8 voci.
--Beata nobis Gaudia.
--Omnes gentes a 16 voci in quattro cori, 1597.

Composer Info

Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1555/7-1615)

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