More About This Project

The instrumental music of Giovanni Gabrieli will be the focus of a series of performance workshops for brass players being sponsored by the Association of New Jersey Orchestras.

The music of Giovanni Gabrieli, one of the most significant Italian composers of the late Renaissance, figures prominently in the history of instrumental music. The complex counterpoint and florid melodies of Gabrieli’s music represent a high point in the rise of instrumental music during the Renaissance. The technical demands of Gabrieli’s instrumental music and his innovations in musical style opened the door to the development of the elaborate instrumental music of the Baroque period which followed.

The Gabrieli Brass Choir Project will explore both single-choir works such as the famous Canzoni Per Sonare as well as the multi-choir works such as Gabrieli’s best-known work, the Sonata pian’ e forte.”

The director of the Gabrieli Brass Choir Project is tubist and conductor John Peter Holly.  According to Mr. Holly,

“The Gabrieli Brass Choir Project offers brass players who are interested in chamber music an opportunity to rehearse and perform the music of one of the most important composers of brass music.”

Biography of Giovanni Gabrieli

Giovanni Gabrieli was a highly influential Italian composer of instrumental and choral music of the late Renaissance period. Born in Venice, Italy in approximately 1554, (the exact year and date of his birth is unknown) Giovanni Gabrieli came on the musical scene at the very end of the Renaissance, a period of Western musical history that spanned approximately 1400 to 1600 A.D.

After studying with his uncle, the distinguished Italian composer Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli traveled to Munich in the late 1570s to study with the great Flemish composer Orlando di Lasso who was then serving as the Maestro di Cappella in the court of Duke Albert V of Bavaria. Gabrieli returned to his native Venice at the very end of the Italian Renaissance in 1585 to become the organist, choirmaster and composer at the great Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco (commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica). The architecture of this great cathedral, with its many balconies, choir lofts, domes and, most importantly, its distinctive trancept, (the architectural structure set crosswise to the nave of a cathedral built in a “cruciform” or  cross-shape in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture) made an ideal setting for Gabrieli’s new style of antiphonal instrumental music.

The instrumental music of Giovanni Gabrieli combines the highly refined polyphony of the late Renaissance with a remarkably florid melodic style that would become the hallmark of the instrumental music in the new period of musical history that was just beginning to emerge: the Baroque.

The spacious interior of the building with its multiple choir lofts was the inspiration for the development of a Venetian polychoral style among the composers appointed maestro di cappella at the choir of St Mark’s. The style was first developed by a foreigner, Adrian Willaert, and was continued by the Italian organists and composers Andrea Gabrieli, his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli, and Claudio Monteverdi. Their music took advantage of the spacious architecture and led to the development of polychoral and antiphonal textures.

Today, Monteverdi is mostly known for his operas and the music of Andrea Gabrieli and Adrian Wilarert is mostly forgotten. But over the past 50 or more years, the music of Giovanni Gabrieli has been rediscovered and championed by student, amateur and professional brass musicians the world over.