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Andrea GABRIELI (1533-1585)
Motets and Organ Works
Weser-Renaissance/Manuel Cordes
rec. 16-18 November 2018, Stiftskirche Bassum, Germany
CPO 555 291-2 [69.07]

Whenever Andrea Gabrieli is thought of, it is in the context of the fact that he was the great Giovanni Gabrieli’s uncle, yet, as this new disc demonstrates, he was strongly influential and his works were not only published during his lifetime but for many years after. He has a style and a form of expression which is all his own.

If we hear Andrea’s music at all, it is more likely to be an organ work, but he also wrote madrigals, as recorded by I Fagiolini (Chandos 0697) and of course, many motets and mass settings. He lived and worked in Venice, a city renowned for its processions and religious ceremonies - and therefore its extravagant music. Andrea was its musical head from about 1570 not only as an organist but as a composer who was aiding and abetting the colourful use of string and wind ensembles not only to enhance worship but also for secular events.

This was also the era of the cori spezzati (split choirs) and ensembles in and around the basilica of St. Mark’s and indeed in any suitable church building. A good example is the final track Benedicam Dominum. Adrian Willaert, who was at St Mark’s until 1562, had used the choir spaces antiphonally as early as the 1540’s. Claudio Merulo had followed, developing the concept on occasions, as had some lesser names. Andrea arrived at a time when Venice was at its height even in the realms of theatre performance, in which he was also involved, but although Masses were said every day in the basilica it is difficult to know if this regularly involved instrumentalists or even singers. It seems that the first salaried instrumentalists were not placed on a payroll until 1567.

Andrea’s style is more reserved, solid and restrained than Giovanni’s and that may be why he is less often performed. He seems to be aiming quite often at simplicity of texture, which makes the most impressive use of large resources. There is often a clear reason for this; for example, in his solemn setting of Domine, ne in furore tuo, ‘O Lord rebuke me not in thine anger’ (psalm 6); on the other hand, a piece like O Gloriosa Domino might appear to be a little too ‘po-faced’. These motets and those others here recorded were probably mostly meant for the major religious days observed in Venice at that time. They are dignified and poised, never too extravert.

Under the redoubtable Manfred Cordes, Weser-Renaissance and the CPO label have allowed no stone to be unturned in these performances, employing sixteen musicians - that is, seven singers and nine instrumentalists playing, for example, trombones, chitarrone and something called a zink which is a small cornett.

I quite often find in recordings of this multi-voiced repertoire that the balance between the instruments and voices tends to favour the former. This is indeed the case with some performances here and is especially noticeable in the twelve-part Sanctus and the twelve-part Deus misereatur - but the question arises, is this what one might hear in St. Mark’s or might have heard in Andrea’s day? Sadly, I have never attended a service at the basilica so can’t say for sure. It may be, though, that the choral work under Cordes needed to be at times, more strongly projected and characterised.

As is typical of cpo, the booklet notes, here by Veronika Greuel, are detailed, if a little microscopic, but very interesting, taking us through the history of Venice since the dark ages through to Gabrieli's time and casting light on the many festivals, such as Ascension Day and St. Mark’s Day, which falls in April, for which Andrea wrote much music, an example being Deus, qui beatum Marcum. All of the texts are given and are well translated.

Despite some of the caveats mentioned above, there is some very fine singing heard here and some wonderfully warm and nimble instrumental work. There are also four organ pieces recorded and played by Edoardo Bellotti on what is called a Pradello-Organ. My very weak German translates its description, I think, as being by Carlo Prati (d.1700). The recording was made in a grand vaulted church in Lower Saxony, which offers a suitable space for the division of the choirs and soloists, as shown by a photograph in the booklet.

Gary Higginson

Deus misereatur nostri a 12 [4.06]
Toccata primi toni [4.01]
Kyrie eleison and Christe eleison [5.32]
Recercare arioso a 16 [4.29]
Egredimini et videte a 8 [2.17]
O gloriosa Domina [ a 6 3.18]
Sancta Maria a 6 [3.04]
Ave regina a 7 [2.06]
Ricercare in C [5.08]
Jubilate Deo a 8[2.29]
Sanctus a 12 [2.29]
Canzon ariosa [2.55]
Domine, ne in furore tua a 6 [7.46]
Deus, qui beatum Marcum a 8 [2.44]
Exultate justi a 10 [3.36]
Angelus ad pastores ]2.53]
Angelus ad pastores (organ solo) [1.34]
Domine Deus meus a 7 [3.34]
Benedicam Dominum a 12 [4.03]

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