The name of Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554/57 – 1612), like that of only a few musicians, is associated with a very specific place: San Marco in Venice. Not only did he work there as an organist for almost thirty years from 1584, but above all many of his compositions are precisely tailored to the performance situation in this famous cathedral. Its four chapels offered the ideal conditions for experimenting with the distribution of sound bodies in the room, various question and answer structures and the alternation of solos and tutti. Giovanni Gabrieli brought this Venetian multi-choral style, which had already been tried out by his uncle who was about 20 years older, to full bloom and achieved a splendid development of sound that was previously unknown and perfectly suited the self-image of the patricians of Venice. These pieces are often no longer conceived in terms of line and counterpoint, but in terms of chords and harmony.
For the first stages of Gabrieli’s life, we have to rely on conjecture. We can assume that he was born in or near Venice, grew up there and was a member of the Munich court orchestra for a few years before taking up his post at San Marco. Gabrieli’s music found admirers especially in Germany; his most prominent pupil was Heinrich Schütz.
As of September 2021