Giovanni GABRIELI (1557-1612). Processional and Ceremonial Music
from Sacrae Symphoniae (1597, 1615) and Concerti (1587)
Choir and Orchestra of the Gabrieli Festival · Anton Heiner, Franz Eibner, Herbert Tachezi, Rene Clemencic, organists

The Bach Guild · Historical Antology
Vanguard Classics 08 2007 71

1958 / 1993

1. Sancta et immaculata virginitas   [3:13]
Sacrae Symphoniae, 1597
8-part Double Chorus, with 4 recorders, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bassoon,
3 trombones, double bass, 2 organs (positive and regal)

2. O magnum mysterium   [3:29]
Concerti, 1587
8-part Double Chorus, with oboe, 3 clarinets, 3 trombones, lute, viola,
double bass, 3 organs (2 positives, regal)

3. Nunc dimittis   [3:58]
Sacrae Symphoniae, 1597
14-part Triple Chorus, with 3 recorders, oboe, English horn, 3 clarinets,
3 bassoons, contra-bassoon, French horn, trumpet, 3 trombones, viola,
double bass, 4 organs (3 positives regal)

4. Angelus ad pastores   [2:59]
Concerti, 1587
12-part Double Chorus, with 3 recorders, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 3 trombones,
violin, viola, bass-gamba, double bass, 3 organs (2 positives, regal)

5. O Jesu mi dulcissime   [7:20]
Sacrae Symphoniae, 1615 (For Christmas)
8-part Double Chorus, with 3 recorders, oboe, clarinet, 3 bassoons, 2 trombones,
lute, viola, diskant-gamba, bass-gamba, double bass, 3 organs (2 positives, regal)

6. Exaudi Deus   [3:32]
Sacrae Symphoniae, 1597
7-part Chorus, with 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 3 trombones, organ (regal)

7. Hodie completi sunt   [5:24]
Sacrae Symphoniae, 1615 (For Pentecost)
8-part Double Chorus, with 2 bassoons, 2 organs (positive)

8. O Domine Jesu Christe   [5:46]
Sacrae Symphoniae, 1597 (Passion Motet)
8-part Double Chorus, with 2 organs (positive and regal)

9 - Canzona quarti toni a 15   [4:08]
(Ricercar) · Sacrae Symphoniae, 1597
15-part Ricercar, 3 instrumental choirs; 3 recorders, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet,
3 bassoons, contra-bassoon, horn, viola, diskant-gamba, bass-gamba, 3 organs (positive)

10. Inclina Domine   [3:34]
Concerti, 1587
6-part Chorus, with 3 recorders, bassoon, viola, bass-gamba

Choir and Orchestra of the Gabrieli Festival · Hans Gillesberger, choir director
Anton Heiner, Franz Eibner, Herbert Tachezi, Rene Clemencic, organists
Edmond Appia, conductor

Musicological Advisor: Martin Bernstein,
Prof. Emeritus of Music, New York University
Sources: Giovanni Gabrieli, Opera Omnia, Vol. I, 1956.; Vol II, 1959; III, 1962; ed. Denis Arnold (sec. source)
Editions: Prepared by Prof. Anton Heiller and Prof. Josef Mertin of the Vienna Academy of Music

Recorded February, 1958. columbia Studio, Vienna
originally released as BGS 5004

Producer: Karl Wolleitner
Engineer Franz Plott
Digital Remastering: David Baker



"...Gabrieli, immortal gods, how great a man! If loquacious antiquity had seen him, let me say it in a word, it would have set him above Amphions, or if the Muses loved wed-lock, Melpomene would have rejoiced in no other spouse..."

—Heinrich Schütz

Visitors to Venice in the early years of the 17th century encountered a music of a grandeur and an order of excellence unsurpassed in their experience. A French visitor, Jean-Baptiste du Val, was as much fascinated by the diversity of musical forces involved in a performance (winds, strings and organs in addition to the voices) as he was astonished by the massive harmony produced by their combination. And an English visitor, Thomas Coryat, even more impressionable, reported of the music "both vocall and instrumental" that it was "so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super-excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." From Coryat we learn of the variety in the size of the musical ensembles, the diversity of the instruments employed therein, and something of the quality of the individual performers.

"Sometimes there sung sixeteene or twenty men together, having their master or moderator to keepe them in order; and when they sung, the instrumental musitians played also. Sometimes sixeteene played together upon their instruments, ten Sagbuts, foure Cornets, and two Violdegambaes of an extra-ordinary greatness; sometimes tenne, sixe Sagbuts and foure Cornets; sometimes two, a Cornet and a treble violl. Of those treble viols I heard three severall there, whereof each was so good, especially one that I observed above the rest, that I never heard the like before. Those that played upon the treble viols, sung and played together, and sometimes two singular fellowes played together upon Theorboes, to which they sung also, who yeelded admirable sweet musicke, but so still that they could scarce be heard but by those that were very neare them. These two Theorbists concluded that nights musicke, which continued three whole howers at the least. For they beganne about five of the clocke, and ended not before eight. Also it continued as long in the morning: at every time that every severall musicke played, the Organs, whereof there are seven faire paire in that room, standing al in a rowe together, plaied with them. Of the singers there were three or foure so excellent, that I thinke few or none in Christendome do excel! them...."

Venice was a city of exuberant splendor, and the music that held visitors spellbound was an essential ingredient not only in the lavish secular entertainments, but also in the sumptuous religious celebrations that were so notable a part of the life of the city. Characteristically, du Val's impressions were gained from a vespers service at the Church of the Holy Savior before the feast of Saint Theodore, while Coryat's (quoted above) were based on a "festivitie... solemnized to the honour of Saint Roch," which feast, he tells us, "consisted principally of Musicke...." For the Venetian, the border that separated the religious from the secular seems frequently to have been blurred. In Venetian painting, one need only recall Bellini's Procession in Saint Mark's Square, or Veronese's Marriage at Cana or his Feast at the House of Levi, to realize the infusion of secular pomp in the religious pageantry of the Venetians. As organist at St. Mark's, Giovanni Gabrieli was a member of the Ducal Chapel. And as Denis Arnold observes: "The musicians of St. Mark's are best seen not as servants of the church, but rather as being part of one of the most brilliant courts of Europe." The work of Gabrieli is in large measure of a ceremonial character. "His motets," remarks Arnold (whose edition of the first volume of the Opera Omnia is the source for six of the motets presented here), "are nearly all settings of parts of the liturgy used on the great Venetian festivals—Christmas, Easter, the Ascension and St. Mark's Day." As for some of Gabrieli's other double choir music, Arnold conjectures that they were "perhaps written for the entertainments so popular during the term of office of the Doge Marino Grimani, played several times a year in the Palazzo Ducale."

While St. Mark's was not the only place where music for multiple choirs flourished, as a church whose galleries overlooked a vast interior space, it was singularly adapted to an impressive spatial arrangement of multiple choirs. The spatial component seems an especially important part of the aesthetics of Gabrieli's polychoral practice, and the architecture of the church where he served as organist may well have provided a source for suggestion and a testing ground for experiment. Likewise, while the techniques of divided choir treatment neither originated nor ended with Gabrieli, his imagination in the exploitation of these techniques makes his work a veritable compendium of the polychoral style. More impressive than the techniques per se is the wide range of expressive purpose to which they are put. The surface of Gabrieli's music reflects, to be sure, its once functional role as part of the pageantry of Venetian church ceremonial. But what survives in a modern resuscitation of his music is not merely an impressive relic of a curiously grandiloquent culture. "The grandiloquent man," remarked George Eliot, "is never bent on saying what he feels or what he sees, but on producing a certain effect on his audience." Impressing—indeed overpowering—an audience was by all means relevant to Gabrieli's purposes, but the ceremonial strut, the pompous processional manner, is much ameliorated by moments of tender lyricism, and by a passion as urgent as it is inward. The splendor of the Nunc dimittis must be balanced against the gentle purity of the Angelus ad Pastores and the inwardness of the O Jesu mi dulcissıme. This balance in the range of expression characterizes not only the music of Gabrieli, but also the work of the greatest of his pupils, Heinrich Schütz, whose tribute to the master serves as introduction to these notes.   

—Notes by Abraham Veinus, Syracuse University


The Intonazioni, or Preludes for solo organ, performed here by Anton Heiller, are played before each of the motets in accordance with historical usage and with the liturgical tonal relations. Although the Gabrieli motets were designed to be performed with instruments supporting the vocal lines, the original manuscripts contain only the vocal parts. Thus each motet required a special study to determine the proper instrumentation according to 16th-century practice at St. Mark's in Venice. The instrumentation for these performances was set by Professor Mertin of the Vienna Academy of Music, who, in addition to being an outstanding world authority on the music of this era, is one of the foremost organ builders. The full instrumental body consists of 4 recorders (flute-à-bec), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contra-bassoon, French horn, trumpet, 3 trombones, lute, violin, viola, double bass, diskant-gamba, bass-gamba, and 4 organs, including one regal (a small, portable organ with reed-pipes only) and 3 positives, or "bureau" organs. Of the latter, one dates from 1718; another is a reproduction of a 1510 instrument, and a third is a reproduction of the organ of the Silberne Kapelle in Innsbruck. Modern wind instruments were used only when necessary, to take the parts of the Renaissance Zinken (cornetts, made of wood and leather), which proved unfeasible for use because of pitch difficulties.