Giovanni GABRIELI (1544/47-1612) Canzoni
Canzon XXVIII Sol sol la sol fa mi a 8 [2:09]
Canzon francese del duodecimo tono [3:23]
Canzon del duodecimo tono [2:14]
Canzon del duodecimo tono [3:16]
Canzon III a 6 [4:11]
Toccata dell’ottavo tono [2:36]
Ricercar dell’ottavo tono [5:07]
Canzon del secondo tono [2:31]
Motetto Jubilate Deo a 8 [5:14]
Canzon I La Spiritata a 4 [3:15]
Canzon II a 4 del duodecimo tono [2:53]
Canzon III a 4 del duodecimo tono [2:08]
Canzon IV a 4 del duodecimo tono [2:19]
Motetto O Doctor optime a 6 [5:18]
Toccata del primo tono [3:32]
Ricercar del primo tono [3:08]
Sonata I a 5 [3:21]
Canzon del decimo tono [2:15]
Fuga del nono tono [2:33]
Ricercar del decimo tono [4:35]
Canzon del decimo tono [4:08]
Fuga del nono tono [4:25]
Canzon XXVII Fa sol la re a 8 [3:29]
Liuwe Tamminga (organs), Bruce Dickey, Doron Sherwin (cornetti)
rec. San Petronio, Bologna, Italy, 7-9 January 2012. DDD
Sacred Symphonies
Vox Domini super aquas Jordanis C64 [5:52]
In ecclesiis C78 [7:25]
Canzon primi toni a 10 C176 [3:15]
O Jesu mi dulcissime C24 [5:07]
Omnes gentes plaudite manibus C52 [4:01]
O Jesu mi dulcissime C56 [6:21]
Kyrie C71-73 [6:43]
Maria virgo C35 [4:56]
Magnificat C75 [5:38]
Litaniæ Beatæ Mariæ Virginis C63 [12:10]
Exultet iam angelica turba C131 [4:41]
Ex Cathedra
His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts
Concerto Palatino/Jeffrey Skidmore
rec. All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London, 27-29 May 2012. DDD.
Texts and translations included
HYPERION CDA67957 [66:16] - CD or mp3 or 16- or 24-bit lossless download with pdf booklet from
Two recent and quite different takes on the music of the 16th-century Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli. The Passacaille CD offers mostly instrumental canzoni, normally performed by cornets and sackbuts or their modern equivalents - the first recording that I heard was by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble - but here on a pair of historic organs, with the assistance of one or two cornetti in some of the pieces. In addition organ transcriptions of two motets are included. The recording was made on the Epistle and Gospel organs in the church of San Petronio in Bologna, instruments which date from the late 15th/early 16th and later 16th century respectively and which give a fair indication of how the music of the Gabrielis might have sounded in St Mark’s.
Hyperion offer a programme of vocal music with cornet and sackbut accompaniment and one canzon at the centre of the programme, a welcome return from Ex Cathedra and Geoffrey Skidmore and an equally welcome sequel to His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts’ earlier recording of Giovanni Gabrieli’s instrumental canzoni, interspersed with some organ toccatas from Timothy Roberts and Richard Egarr on Hyperion CDA66908 [74:52] - from on CD or mp3 or lossless download.
On CDA66908 the predominant tone is provided by the brass instruments with the organ filling the tone in the background, except on the toccatas and the intonazione, designed for the organ alone. On the new Passacaille recording the organs provide the lion’s share of the sound, with one or both cornets filling in on five tracks. Overall the sound is less rich but more varied, since the organist can vary the registration - specified in each case in the booklet - and, indeed, by using either the smaller or larger of the two organs. A degree of grandeur is lost in the process but the performances are persuasive in their own right.
However it’s performed the music of Giovanni Gabrieli makes a glorious sound and that’s true of both these recordings but especially of the Hyperion. To paraphrase Beecham’s comments on the English attitude to music, even if you don’t like the music, you’ll love the sound it makes. The music of the Gabrielis, uncle Andrea and nephew Giovanni, is particularly colourful and it’s hardly surprising that it influenced Monteverdi and their joint influence spread as far as Germany where it coloured the music of Schütz and many of his contemporaries. Ex Cathedra have already amply proved their ability to do colourful in three Hyperion recordings of Latin American music of this period:
- New World Symphonies CDA67380 or CDA30030 - review
- Moon, Sun and all things CDA67524 - review
- Fire burning in snow CDA67600 - review
(all three recordings are included in my survey of Hyperion Top 30 - review).
The new Hyperion recording is every bit as colourful and enjoyable as those earlier releases and the works offered add to our knowledge of Giovanni’s music - only In ecclesiis makes a regular appearance on other recordings, as, for example, on the Decca Eloquence reissue of the music of the Gabrielis, The Glory of Venice, which many will have chosen as an excellent introduction (448 9932). I compared the new recording with Stephen Cleobury’s performance of his own arrangement of In ecclesiis on an earlier (Argo) incarnation of the Eloquence recording and, while both are good, they are chalk and cheese, with Cleobury slower, more introspective and dignified at the beginning and building to a climax and Geoffrey Skidmore offering a much more colourful approach throughout. There’s a place for both, as also for the recording from the Taverner Choir and Players under Andrew Parrott which used to be available on Virgin, but I think it’s to the new Hyperion that I shall return most often now. Much as I admire Parrott, his recording now sounds quite slow and tame by comparison.
The Hyperion recording is available on CD or as a download; mp3 and 16-bit lossless are available directly from Hyperion - follow the link above - for £7.99. The 24-bit is a little more expensive at £12.00 but be aware that this is, unusually, at 88.2 kHz - some reproducing systems which cope with 24/96 and even 24/192 are stymied by 24/88.2. I listened to the CD-quality 16-bit lossless version and to the physical CD of the Passcaille. Both are very good.
Both recordings come with excellent documentation - as an Adobe pdf document if you download the Hyperion. In the case of Hyperion the excellence is almost a given - and it applies to the earlier recording from the Sagbutts and Cornetts too - but the Passcaille is equally informative, including the specifications of the two organs. The writer, Loris Stella, doesn’t make it clear that placing the organ foremost in the picture with just two cornets is the reverse of the normal practice, except in calling this ‘an unusual selection’ and pointing to the fact that ‘it was common practice to substitute available instruments … including … those for ‘da tasto’ (for keyboards).’
If I were starting from scratch to explore the music of Giovanni Gabrieli, I’d be inclined to go for the older Hyperion recording from the Sagbutts and Cornetts, then to move on to the new Ex Cathedra recording. For those who already have these or similar collections the Passacaille recording would be a logical next step. After that it would be time to move on to the music of Andrea Gabrieli, but that’s a story for another time.
Brian Wilson 

Hyperion: a most welcome return from Ex Cathedra in this colourful repertoire; Passacaille: an excellent next step for those who already know some of Gabrieli’s music.