Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary Composer Biographies

Giovanni Gabrieli

Born: (Unknown) Possibly 1555, probably in Venice, Italy
Died: August 12, 1612 in Venice, Italy
Nationality: Italian
Era: Renaissance
Main genre: Motets and Madrigals
Main works:
Canzoni da sonare
Canzoni e Sonate
Lo Sposalizio: The Wedding of Venice to the Sea
A Venetian Coronation 1595
Venetian Easter Mass
Brief biography:

Giovanni Gabrieli was an important Venetian composer and arguably one of the most influential composers of his time. Most sources put his birth in 1555; but some claim as early as 1553. The exact location of his birth is also unknown, although Venice is the most likely location considering his uncle Andres Gabrieli lived there and Giovanni spent most of his life there. The Italian composer was raised by his uncle who also served as Giovanni’s earliest music tutor. Andres Gabrieli was one of the most productive and published composers of his time, working for the Duke of Bavaria and as an organist at the Basilica di San Marco. It was these connections which got Giovanni his first job in the Bavarian court as a singer working under Orlando de Lassus.

In 1584, Giovanni took up the position of organist at the Basilica di San Marco after Claudio Merulo resigned. In 1585, Giovanni was appointed as organist at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. While holding these prestigious posts, Giovanni composed "grand ceremonial music" and was one of the most renowned teachers of his time, instructing pupils such as Heinrich Schutz. His music is best known for its use of contrast, lack of dissonance and use of harmony rather than counterpoint. Upon Giovanni's death in 1612, most of his work was forgotten. However he is still remembered today for his many motets and madrigals being one of the first composers to specify instrumentation and volume markings in his music and is justly famous for his instrumental music.

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