Giovanni Gabrieli

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COMPOSERS: Giovanni Gabrieli
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Sonatas; Canzonas
PERFORMER: Jan Willem Jansen, Liuwe Tamminga (organ); Concerto Palatino/Bruce Dickey, Charles Toet
Giovanni Gabrieli elevated the instrumental canzona to a level of sophistication that both refined its vocal qualities and anticipated the growth of the Baroque concerto style. Concerto Palatino’s survey, taken mostly from the Sacrae symphoniae (1597) and Canzoni e sonate (1615), demonstrates the two phases of this development. And, by recording in the generously proportioned acoustics of the church of San Petronio in Bologna – the characteristics of whose organs most closely resemble the Venetian instruments sadly lost from St Mark’s – Dickey’s musicians persuasively conjure a sound that the composer might have envisaged.


Finely judged balance between sonorous ‘choral’ textures and lively dance passages animates the festive character of the ‘Canzon septimi toni’ and, most impressively, in the two contrasting versions of the ‘Canzon duodecimi toni’ (tracks 8 and 10) from the Sacrae symphoniae. Meanwhile, this group’s tonal brilliance and sparkling virtuosity in the fast-moving fioriture in the pieces from the 1615 collection reveal most consistently Gabrieli’s feeling for the essence of instrumental music, confirming his formal mastery and exploitation of the excellent instrumentalists available to him at St Mark’s.


Mellifluous phrasing in the works for organs alone vividly recalls the timbral sweetness for which Gabrieli’s own organ playing was renowned. Nicholas Rast