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Sacred Music in the 17th Century:

San Marco

Giovanni Gabrieli (ca 1558-1613)

     The great composer Giovanni Gabrieli was the innovator who brought forth the first murmurs of the new music that would replace the polyphonic style, called the stile antico, that had dominated music throughout the 16th century. We don't know where Gabrieli was born, but he was the nephew and pupil of Andrea Gabrieli, the eminent organist, composer, and teacher at San Marco (Saint Mark Cathedral) in Venice. 
     By 1575, Giovanni had gone to Munich to study with the great Renaissance composer Orlando Lasso. Then in the early 1580s or thereabout, he returned to Venice. On January 1st, 1585, a competition was held to select an organist at San Marco and Giovanni won. After becoming San Marco's organist, he composed some very extraordinary and revolutionary instrumental and choral compositions.
     Gabrieli was an extraordinary composer, creating sacred compositions that used 2, 3 and even 4 different choirs, all spaced above the congregation in the choir lofts of San Marco. He was called the "Father of the chromatic style" because of his bold modulations, and was one of the first, if not the first, to employ use a separate bass line, an idea that will become the underpinnings of the new music. He wrote magnificently for instruments, choir, and a combination of both, and he was the first composer to specify violins in a score. This alone qualifies him as a Father of our classical music tradition and to him must be given the credit for opening the door for the new music that came to life at the beginning of the 17th Century. He was also the first to really develop instrumental music. In addition to his sacred choral compositions, he created canzonas for brass and strings.
     The first known example of orchestration occurs in Giovanni Gabrieli's Sacrae Symphoniae (1597) where instruments are specified. This is where the violin was first specified in music
. It5 was already fully devolped by this time except that the neck was shorter and the bridge was flatter. Giovanni and his uncle Andrea were also the first to use the term concerto, in the 1587 Concerti di Andrea, et di Giovanni Gabrieli. The violin, now emancipated, and the rest of the violin family will become the mainstay of 17th century music, and in the later part of the century, the concerto will become the medium of expression for this family of instruments, manufactured in Italy by the greatest makers who ever lived such as Amati and Strativarius.
      Gabrieli is not only a very important composer historically, but also a composer of absolutely sublime music. His magnificent choral works, such as Plaudite and O Magnum Mysterium belong in catagory of great compositions of all time.

Gabrieli at San Marco
The Glory of Venice - Gabrieli in San Marco
This one is essential!
Music For Brass Volume 3

On the Web:

Dovesong Gabrieli Page

Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643)

     Monteverdi was born in Cremona, Italy in 1567. When he was young, he became a viola player in the orchestra of Duke Gonzaga of Mantua and studied counterpoint with the well-known composer Ingegneri. At 17 and at 20, he published his first madrigals and canzonette a3 and in these appeared the harmonic innovations for which he is famous, and which helped him become the greatest musician of his own age. His progressions include the unprepared entrance of dissonances and the dominant seventh and ninth chords. He was bitterly assailed in pamphlets, particularly by Giovanni Maria Artusi (ca 1540-1613), and Monteverdi replied in kind. Monteverdi was the first proponent of the new style of music that made use of song and accompaniment and one of the musical giants who ushered-in the Baroque Era in music.
     Monteverdi's triumph at Mantua spelled the end to the polyphony of the Renaissance Era that had been brought to perfection in the music of Victoria and Palestrina. Therefore, one hand we might morn the begining of the end of one of the greatest spiritual music styles of all time with the replacement by a perhaps more mundane style, but on the other hand, we would welcome the opportunity to usher in a new style of music that will continue for more than a century, reaching perfection in the music of J.S. Bach.
     In 1603, Monteverdi became Ingegneri's successor as maestro to the Duke and composed the opera Ariadne for the wedding of the Duke's son to Margherita of Savoy. Ariadne's grief moved the audience to tears. Never had there been a dramatic music such as this! Little did they know that they were witnessing the birth of opera, an art form that will perpetuate to the present day.
     In 1607, Monteverdi produced his glorious opera Orfeo with the then-unheard-of orchestra consisting of 36 pieces. The music of Orfeo shows great modernity, Rockstro comparing its prelude with the one bass-note sustained throughout to the introduction to Wagner's Das Rheingold, and its continual recitative also to that of Wagner.
     In 1608, Monteverdi's mythological spectacle Ballo delle Ingrate appeared. The Vespers and motets published in 1610 gave him such fame that in 1613 he was made maestro di Cappella at San Marco in Venice, at the unprecedented salary of 300 ducats, but this was raised to 500 in 1616 and a house and traveling expenses given to him.
     In 1624, he introduced the then-startling novelty of an instrumental tremolo (which the musicians at first refused to play) into his dramatic interlude Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. In 1627, he composed five dramatic episodes including Bradamante and Dido for the court at Parma, in 1630, the opera Proserpina Rapita, then in 1637--in the first opera-house, which opened at Venice (the Teatro di St. Cassiano operas having hitherto been performed at the palaces of the nobiliy)--Monteverdi produced the operas Adone, Le Nozze di Enea con Lavinia, Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria, and L'Inoronazione di Poppea. He earned the title of "the father of the art of instrumentation" and was the most popular and influential composer of his time. Among his great works are his books of madrigals, the eighth book embodying music of the highest caliber.
     In 1636, Monteverdi joined the priesthood, and that is the last that history records him. L'Inoronazione di Poppea and Orfeo were revived in Paris by Vincent d'Indy, who prepared modern editions of these works that had been laying dormant for over 250 years.

1610 Vespers
The famous Vespers for the Blessed Virgin, 1610. There are a number of good recordings available. The one we prefer has not yet been released on CD.
he first great opera in the history of music. What a fantastic work of art: pastoral, peaceful, calm.
L'Incoronazione di Poppea
Vienna Boys Choir, Vienna Concentus Musicus, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, director
Teldec #42547
Madrigali Guerrieri et Amorosi (Madrigals of Love and War)
English Chamber Orchestra, Raymond Leppard, director
Philips 432 503-2
Monteverdi's 8th Book of Madrigals, a stunning masterpiece of the first order. Find this CD set and add it to your collection. What a treasure!
Selva morale e spirituale
A collection of sacred music published by Monteverdi towards the end of his life.

Cambridge 1610 Vespers


Monteverdi MP3s

-> Monteverdi MP3s in the DoveSong MP3 Library

Alessandro Grandi (ca1575-85? - 1630)

     Grandi was one of the most popular composers of his day. His music, composed in the new style, was published and widely disseminated, and continued to be reprinted long after his death. He wrote settings of psalms, motets, madrigals, and some of the earliest cantatas. He was chosen choirmaster at the Accademia della Morte in Ferrara in 1597, then moved to the Accademia dello Spirito Santo in 1604 and stayed there through 1607. In 1616 he was chosen to be masestro di cappella at the Ferrara cathedral. In 1617 he became a singer and three years later vice maestro at the prestigious San Marco in Venice under Monteverdi. In 1627 he was chosen masestro di cappella at San Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. He died there in 1630 from plague.
     Another great 17th Century composer forgotten amongst the others in the "forgotten century" of music.  

Alessandro Grandi: Mottetti e Cantilene
Gruppo Madrigalistico "Citta di Rovigo"
Achicembalo Ensemble, Carlo Rebeschini, direttore
Rivo Alto
Associazione Cultural
La Voce Della Musica, Onlus

On the Web:

Pier Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)

    Cavalli was born in Crema in 1602. At some point he was at San Marco in Venice where he was elected to the chapel choir as a tenor under Monteverdi. He was there until 1635. In 1640 he became the second organist at San Marco and maintained that position for twenty-five years. In 1639 he had a success with his first opera, Le nozze di Teti e Peleo. After his second opera Didone, produced in 1641, his fame then spread all over Europe. At least 42 of his operas were subsequently staged. In 1656 he published Musiche sacre concernenti Messa e Salmi concertati con istromenti, Inni, Antifone et Sonate, a 2-6, 8, 10 e 12 voci
     Cavalli traveled to Paris to stage his operas, with ballet music required by the French to be supplied by Lully. The ballet music pleased the French, but not the operas, and there is some evidence that the egotistic and opertunistic Lully sabotaged Cavilli's reputation there. Cavalli left Paris a bitter man. He approached operatic composition from then on with reserve. (In his Lettre sur la Musique françoise of 1753, Jean-Jacques Rousseau tells us that:

"Lully himself, alarmed by the arrival of Correlli [SIC] in France, hastened to have him expelled from France: which was all the more easy for him in so far as Correlli was the greater man, and in consequence less of a sycophant than he." (It is believed that Rousseau was actually talking about Cavalli here.)

    Cavalli's last works were the Vesperi a 8 voci published in 1675. He died the following year.

Missa pro Defunctis, Mottetti e Sonate
Vespero della Beata Vergine Maria
Athestis Chorus & Conort dir.: Filippo Maria Bressan
Tactus TC 600311

On the Web:
Goldberg Early Music Portal

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