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Name of Work

Gabrieli, Giovanni (1554-1612)
Canzona per Sonare No. 1 for brass quartet (La Spirita)

Canzona per Sonare No. 1 for Brass Quartet


Oct 08, 2006

Charles Geyer, Trumpet
Barbara Butler, Trumpet
Gail Williams, Horn
Michael Mulcahy, Trombone

Oct 09, 2006

Charles Geyer, Trumpet
Barbara Butler, Trumpet
Gail Williams, Horn
Michael Mulcahy, Trombone

GABRIELI-Canzona per Sonare No. 1 for Brass Quartet, La Spiritata & Canzona Noni Toni for Winds, Brass and Strings

Composed in 1597

These program notes were written for both this work and another Gabrieli piece, Canzona Noni Toni a 12 for Winds, Brass and Strings.

Giovanni Gabrieli, one of the greatest composers of the era in which the contrapuntal complexities of the Renaissance were giving way to the florid drama of the Baroque, was long associated with the glorious musical establishment of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. Eschewing the involved polyphony of earlier composers, he wrote in a chordal, often dance-like style that not only took full advantage of the acoustical properties of the ancient basilica, but also embodied a grandeur of religious and civic pageantry that has never been surpassed. His music included much writing for instruments, either alone or in combination with voices. Many of his works were composed for multiple choirs of voices accompanied by brass and strings to create spacious, echo-like antiphonal effects. Some of these pieces were among the first music in history to indicate specific dynamic levels in the score (“piano” for “soft,” “forte” for “strong” or “loud”). The works for instruments alone were mostly for brasses, the noble sound of trombones and trumpets being especially well suited to filling the large spaces in the huge cathedral and the famous square that forms its entrance.

The principal sources for Gabrieli’s works are the Sacrae Symphoniae of 1597 and the collection of Canzoni e Sonate published by the Venetian firm of G. Magni in 1615, three years after the composer’s death. Six other of his pieces were included in an anthology of 36 Canzoni per Sonare con ogni sorte de stromenti (“Canzoni for Ensembles of Various Sorts of Instruments”) issued in Venice by Alessandro Raverii in 1608. Raverii’s collection opens with four of Gabrieli’s canzoni — an instrumental species modeled on the harmonically simple and rhythmically active French vocal form known as the chanson (“canzona” in Italian) — including the one titled “La Spiritita,” which exemplifies the genre’s dancing rhythms, chordal texture and sectional construction.

The Canzona Noni Toni was published in the 1597 Sacrae Symphoniae (“Sacred Symphonies”), which contained motets for one to four choirs of voices and instruments as well as instrumental canzoni and sonatas. The canzoni were written for four to fifteen players disposed variously into choirs, and were designated simply by the church mode in which they were written (i.e., “noni toni” — “ninth tone” — denotes the Aeolian mode, based on the note A, the ancient equivalent of the minor scale). The Canzona Noni Toni is a solemn processional, dignified of spirit and powerful of utterance, that evokes the majestic ceremonial splendor of 16th-century Venice.

Program Notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Performance date: October 8 & 9, 2006

Performance Audio