Tuesday, January 7, 8510

Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1510-1585) - Ricercar

Andrea Gabrieli (1510/32/1533? – August 30, 1585) was an Italian composer and organist of the late Renaissance. The uncle of Giovanni Gabrieli, he was the first internationally renowned member of the Venetian School of composers, and was extremely influential in spreading the Venetian style in Italy as well as in Germany.

Gabrieli was probably a native of Venice, most likely the parish of S. Geremia.

He may have been a pupil of Adrian Willaert at St. Mark's in Venice at an early age. There is some evidence that he may have spent some time in Verona in the early 1550's, due to a connection with Vincenzo Ruffo, who worked there as maestro di cappella -- Ruffo published one of Gabrieli's madrigals in 1554, and Gabrieli also wrote some music for a Veronese academy. Gabrieli is known to have been organist in Cannaregio between 1555 and 1557, at which time he competed unsuccessfully for the post of organist at St. Mark's.

His early style is indebted to Cipriano de Rore, and his madrigals are representative of mid-century trends. Even in his earliest music, however, he had a liking for homophonic textures at climaxes, foreshadowing the grand style of his later years.

In 1562 he went to Germany, where he visited Frankfurt am Main and Munich; while there he met and became friends with Orlande de Lassus, one of the most wide-ranging composers of the entire Renaissance, who wrote secular songs in French, Italian, and German, as well as abundant Latin sacred music. This musical relationship was immensely profitable for both composers: while Lassus certainly learned from the Venetian, Gabrieli took back to Venice numerous ideas he learned while visiting Lassus in Bavaria, and within a short time was composing in most of the current idioms, including one which Lassus entirely avoided: purely instrumental music.

After his meeting with Lassus, Gabrieli's style changed considerably, and the Netherlander became the strongest influence on him.

In 1566 Gabrieli was chosen for the post of organist at St. Mark's, one of the most prestigious musical posts in northern Italy; he retained this position for the rest of his life. Around this time he acquired, and maintained, a reputation as one of the finest current composers. Working in the unique acoustical space of St. Mark's, he was able to develop his unique, grand ceremonial style, which was enormously influential in the development of the polychoral style and the concertato idiom, which partially defined the beginning of the Baroque era in music.

Gabrieli became a prolific and versatile composer, and wrote a large amount of music, including sacred and secular vocal works, music for mixed groups of voices and instruments, and purely instrumental compositions, much of it for the huge, resonant space of St. Mark's. His output includes over a hundred motets and madrigals, as well as a smaller number of instrumental pieces.

Once Gabrieli began working at St. Mark's, he began to turn away from the Franco-Flemish contrapuntal style, which had dominated the music of the 16th century -- instead exploiting the sonorous grandeur of mixed instrumental and vocal groups playing antiphonally in the great basilica. His music of this time uses repetition of phrases with different combinations of voices at different pitch levels; although instrumentation is not specifically indicated, it can be inferred; he carefully contrasts texture and sonority to shape sections of music in a way which was unique, and which defined the Venetian style for the next generation.

His duties at St. Mark's clearly included his compositional endeavors, for he wrote a great deal of music for ceremonial affairs, some of considerable historical interest. Among them, he provided the music for the festivities accompanying the celebration of the victory over the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto (1571).


[Paolo Veronese (1528 - 1588) - The Battle of Lepanto (1572)]

The Battle of Lepanto (October 7, 1571) occurred when a galley fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of the Republic of Venice, the Papacy (under St. Pope Pius V), Spain (including Naples, Sicily and Sardinia), the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller and others, decisively defeated the main fleet of Ottoman war galleys.

The five-hour conflict was fought at the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece, where the Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto met the Holy League forces, which had come from Messina.

Victory gave the Holy League temporary control over the Mediterranean, protected Rome from invasion, and prevented the Ottomans from advancing into Europe. This last major naval battle fought solely between rowing vessels was one of history's most decisive, inasmuch as "after Lepanto the pendulum swung back the other way and the wealth began to flow from East to West, a pattern that continues to this day," as well as "a crucial turning point in the ongoing conflict between the Middle East and Europe, which has not yet completely been resolved."


Missa Pater Peccavi: 1 Kyrie (1572)

Motet De Profundis Clamavi (Psalm 130) (1572)

Ricercar in the 12th Mode (c. 1580) (Older, faster)

Ricercar in the 12th Mode (c. 1580) (Newer, slower)

Late in his career he also became famous as a teacher. Prominent among his students were his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli; the music theorist Lodovico Zacconi; Hans Leo Hassler, who carried the concertato style to Germany; and many others.

In addition to his duties at St. Mark's, Gabrieli provided the music for one of the earliest revivals of an ancient Greek drama in Italian translation: Sophocles's Oedipus Tyrannus, for which he wrote the music for the choruses, setting separate lines for different groupings of voices. It was produced at Vicenza in 1585.

This reflects the the music-drama ideas of the Florentine Camera, at their height (1577-1582) a few years previous to this.

The date and circumstances of his death were not known until the 1980's, when the register containing his death date was found. Dated August 30, 1585, it includes the notation that he was "about 52 years old"; his approximate birth date has been inferred from this.

Gabrieli also composed music for the visit of several princes from Japan (1586), evidently commissioned the previous year and heard after his passing.

His position at St. Mark's was not filled until the end of 1586, and a large amount of his music was published posthumously in 1587.

Evidently Andrea Gabrieli was reluctant to publish much of his own music; his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli published much of it after his uncle's death.


Venice (Italian: Venezia, Venetian: Venezsia) is a city in northern Italy, the capital of region Veneto, and has a population of 271,251 (census estimate January 1, 2004). Together with Padua, the city is included in the Padua-Venice Metropolitan Area (population 1,600,000). Venice has been known as the "La Dominante," "Serenissima," "Queen of the Adriatic," "City of Water," "City of Bridges," and "The City of Light."

The city stretches across 118 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. The saltwater lagoon stretches along the shoreline between the mouths of the Po (south) and the Piave (north) Rivers. The population estimate of 272,000 inhabitants includes the population of the whole Comune of Venezia; around 62,000 in the historic city of Venice (Centro storico); 176,000 in Terraferma (the Mainland), mostly in the large frazione of Mestre and Marghera; and 31,000 live on other islands in the lagoon.

The Venetian Republic was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain and spice trade) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century.


Saint Mark's Basilica (Italian: Basilica di San Marco a Venezia), the cathedral of Venice, is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture. It lies on St Mark's Square (in the San Marco sestiere or district) adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace. Originally it was the "chapel" of the Venetian rulers, and not the city's cathedral. Since 1807 it has been the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. For its opulent design, gilded Byzantine mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century on the building was known by the nickname Chiesa d'Oro (Church of gold).

The first St Mark's was a temporary building in the Doge’s Palace, constructed in 828, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria. This was replaced by a new church on its present site in 832; from the same century dates the first St Mark's Campanile (bell tower). The new church was burned in a rebellion in 976, rebuilt in 978 and again to form the basis of the present basilica since 1063. The basilica was consecrated in 1094, the same year in which the body of Saint Mark was supposedly rediscovered in a pillar by Vitale Falier, doge at the time. The building also incorporates a low tower (now housing St Mark’s Treasure), believed by some to have been part of the original Doge's Palace. Within the first half of the 13th century the narthex and the new façade were constructed, most of the mosaics were completed and the domes were covered with higher wooden, lead-covered domes in order to blend in with the Gothic architecture of the redesigned Doge's Palace.

While the basic structure of the building has been little altered, its decoration changed greatly over time. The succeeding centuries, especially the fourteenth, all contributed to its adornment, and seldom did a Venetian vessel return from the Orient without bringing a column, capitals, or friezes, taken from some ancient building, to add to the fabric of the basilica. Gradually, the exterior brickwork became covered with various marbles and carvings, some much older than the building itself. The last interventions concerned Baptistery and St Isidor’s Chapel (1300's), the carvings on the upper profile of the façade and the Sacristy (1400's), the Zen Chapel (1500's).

As a "State church," till 1807 the basilica was not subject to the bishop (patriarch since 1451), whose cathedral was San Pietro di Castello. The doge himself appointed for celebrations a special clergy led by the primicerio. The procurators, members of an important organization of the Republic of Venice, were in charge of administration; their seats were the Procuratie, in St. Mark’s Square. All building and restoring works were directed by the proto: great architects such as Jacopo Sansovino and Baldassarre Longhena had this title. Procurators and proto still exist and accomplish the same tasks for the Patriarchate.

The interior is based on a Greek cross, with each arm divided in three naves and emphasized by a dome of its own. This is based on Justinian's Basilica of the Apostles in Constantinople. The marble floor (1100s, but underwent many restorations) is entirely tessellated in geometric patterns and animal designs. The techniques used were opus sectile and opus tessellatum. The lower register of walls and pillars is completely covered with polychrome marble slabs. The transition between the lower and the upper register is delimited all around the basilica by passageways which largely substituted the former galleries.

The spacious interior of the building with its multiple choir lofts was the inspiration for the development of a Venetian polychoral style among the composers appointed maestro di cappella at St Mark's. The style was first developed by a foreigner Adrian Willaert and was continued by Italian organists and composers: Andrea Gabrieli and his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli, and Claudio Monteverdi.


A ricercar (or ricercare, recercar; the terms are interchangeable) is a type of late Renaissance and mostly early Baroque instrumental composition. The term means to search out, and many ricercars serve a preludial function to "search out" the key or mode of a following piece. A ricercar may explore the permutations of a given motif, and in that regard may follow the piece used as illustration. E.g. "Ricercar sopra Benedictus" would develop motives from a motet titled "Benedictus." The term is also used to designate an etude or study that explores a technical device in playing an instrument, or singing.

In its most common contemporary usage, it refers to an early kind of fugue, particularly one of a serious character in which the subject uses long note values. However the term has a considerably more varied historical usage.

In the sixteenth century, the word ricercar could refer to several types of compositions. Terminology was flexible, even lax then: whether a composer called an instrumental piece a toccata, a canzona, a fantasia, or a ricercar was clearly not a matter of strict taxonomy but a rather arbitrary decision. Yet ricercars fall into two general types: a predominantly homophonic piece, with occasional runs and passagework, not unlike a toccata; and a sectional work in which each section begins imitatively, usually in a variation form. Examples of both types of ricercars can be found in the works of Girolamo Frescobaldi. The second type of ricercar, the imitative, contrapuntal type, was to prove the more important historically, and eventually developed into the fugue.

This second, imitative type first appeared in the middle part of the sixteenth century, and developed parallel to the motet, with which it shared many of its imitative procedures. Instrumental transcriptions of motets were common in the early sixteenth century, and clearly composers began to create works which were like them in character but written for the instrument alone (keyboard or lute were common instruments represented in this development). Since the text of the motet was no longer available as a structural or unifying device, some other method of musical organization needed to be found: variation form proved the most malleable and durable.

During the Baroque era, the imitative ricercar gradually evolved into the fugue, just as the instrumental canzona evolved into the sonata. Some works which are indistinguishable from fugues were called "ricercars" even as late as Bach, with the difference that the note values were generally longer and the character slightly more serious. Good examples are the three-part and six-part ricercars from The Musical Offering (1747) by Johann Sebastian Bach.

[8510 Gervaise / 8510 Andrea Gabrieli / 8510 Bourgeoise]