Vintage LP "The Glory of Venice" E. Power Biggs, Giovanni Gabrieli
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RARE VINTAGE Chamber Music
COLUMBIA MASTERWORKS STEREO M 30937
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Written By Giovanni GABRIELI
Giovanni Gabrieli is an important transitional figure between the Renaissance and Baroque eras and their associated musical styles. The distinctive sound of his music derived in part from his association with St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, long one of the most important churches in Europe, and for which he wrote both vocal and instrumental works. Through his compositions and his work with several significant pupils, Gabrieli substantially influenced the development of music in the seventeenth century.
Very little is known about his early years; he probably studied with his famous uncle Andrea Gabrieli, who was also a composer, and organist at St. Mark's. Like his uncle, Gabrieli lived in Germany for several years, and was employed at the court of Duke Albrecht V in Munich from around 1575 until the Duke's death in 1579. Soon after that Gabrieli returned to Italy, and in 1585 became the organist for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, a religious confraternity; he would hold that post for the rest of his life. That same year (1585), Gabrieli became organist at St. Mark's and, on his uncle's death in 1586, assumed his position as its principal composer (Gabrieli also edited a number of his uncle's compositions for posthumous publication).
At that time, Venice was a very cosmopolitan city and something of a musical crossroads. Much of the city's musical activity centered around St. Mark's Cathedral, which had long attracted many great musicians. The Cathedral's unusual layout, with its two choir lofts facing each other (each with its own organ), led to the development of what has been called the Venetian style of composition â€” a colorful and dramatic style often involving multiple choirs and instrumental ensembles; many of Gabrieli's motets and other religious choral works are written for two or four choirs, divided into a dozen or more separate parts. Gabrieli also became one of the first composers to write choral works including parts for instrumental ensembles; the motet In ecclesiis, as an example, calls for two choirs, soloists, organ, brass, and strings. Gabrieli wrote a number of secular vocal works (most or all of them before 1600), and a number of pieces for organ in a quasi-improvisational style.
Gabrieli composed many purely instrumental works in forms such as the canzoni and ricercari, which had become increasingly popular in the sixteenth century. Several of these were published with some of his choral music in the collection Sacrae symphoniae (1597). This publication was very popular all over Europe and attracted for Gabrieli a number of prominent pupils, the best known of which were Heinrich SchÃ¼tz (who studied with him between 1609 and 1612) and Michael Praetorius. More of Gabrieli's instrumental pieces were published posthumously in Canzoni e sonate (1615). Some of these works were particularly innovative: the Sonata pian e forte was one of the first documented compositions to employ dynamic markings, and the Sonata per tre violini was one of the first to use a basso continuo, anticipating the later trio sonata. His instrumental works are now seen as the culmination of the development of instrumental music in the sixteenth century.
From around 1606, Gabrieli suffered from a kidney stone that reduced his activities, and eventually led to his death.
The Glory in Venice
GABRIELI IN SAN MARCO
The Venetian Giovanni Gabrieli occupied a crucial position in the pedagogical transmission of late-Renaissance and early-Baroque musical style. Giovanni first learned composition at the hands of his uncle Andrea Gabrieli, organist for San Marco Cathedral and standardbearer for Venice's already-rich musical traditions. Giovanni supplemented this experience with a four-year period of service at the Bavarian court chapel of Munich, learning from one of the worldwide paragons of the late-Renaissance style, Orlande de Lassus. In turn, after Giovanni Gabrieli took over the position of San Marco organist from his uncle in 1585, he passed on his stylistic synthesis to a series of his own students. In Venice, both his successor Alessandro Grandi and Claudio Monteverdi were influenced by Gabrieli; over a dozen northern musicians, as well, made the arduous journey to Italy to study with him, among them Heinrich SchÃ¼tz. A piece of music such as Gabrieli's eight-voiced polychoral motet Jubilate Deo omnis terra (from the first volume of his Sacrae Symphoniae of 1597) admirably displays the synthesis of styles he achieved and passed on.
The most obvious musical traits of Gabrieli's Jubilate Deo (Psalm 99:1-4) â€” its blend of flawless imitative counterpoint, careful text declamation, and splendid antiphonal effects â€” clearly reflect his mastery of both Lassus' teaching and his uncle's. The first verse opens with two classic and well-balanced "points of imitation" in a single choir of higher voices, then builds to a cadence in two syncopated phrases of homophony, much as Lassus might have done. At the important structural moment of the Psalm verse's second half, however, a second choir with contrasting lower textures makes its delayed yet grand entrance. Though by no means exclusive to Venice, this type of choral antiphony had long been a common feature of the music. For the second and third Psalm verses, Gabrieli continues his alternation between three contrasting textures (upper choir, lower choir, and full chordal sonorities), while maintaining a characteristically lucid declamation of the text and sensitivity to its structure. After a brief, dance-like triple-meter section, the final verse ("His truth endures for all generations") appears in a twice-extended coda with extraordinarily close imitation among all eight contrapuntal voices. The imitative motive ripples through the entire choir, blurring the prior antiphonal distinctions in one majestic tapestry of praise. In the Venetian liturgy, Jubilate Deo served a number of high festal Lauds, especially those jubilant services on Christmas morning.
"Angelus Ad Pastores"
E. Power Biggs
E. Power Biggs studied music at the Royal Academy of Music, emigrating to the U.S. in 1930 and becoming a citizen in 1937. He concertized widely, eventually broadcasting a weekly radio program from 1942-1958 on a classic Aeolian-Skinner organ from the Musch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University. This program alone brought the sound of organ music, particularly that of the Baroque, to an unprecedented large audience.
Biggs' inexhaustible energy as a performer was instrumental to the popularization of both the organ and Baroque music, and his activities extended well beyond these broadcasts. He toured and recorded widely, playing a huge variety of modern and historic organs and the music best suited for them, eventually expanding his repertory into every period of music. A series of LPs Biggs recorded for Columbia in the 1960s did much to make Bach's organ masterpieces familiar to a variety of listeners that ranged well beyond the traditional classical audience. Biggs also courted crossover listeners with a recording of Scott Joplin rags made on the pedal harpsichord.
He also worked with a number of contemporary composers on commissions, including Walter Piston and Roy Harris. After the onset of arthritis, which led to a forced retirement, Biggs concentrated on editing and publishing early organ music. By the time of his death in 1977, the name E. Power Biggs had become synonymous with the organ for several generations of music lovers.
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