- Giovanni Gabrieli: Transmission and Reception of a Venetian Musical Tradition ed. by Rodolfo Baroncini, David Bryant, and Luigi Collarile
Giovanni Gabrieli is guaranteed a place in our textbook music histories, although his position therein tends to be somewhat problematic given that he sits on the cusp between the musical Renaissance and Baroque without quite summing up the former, nor clearly setting the ground for the latter. In part that is to do with the various musical styles apparent in his rich output of vocal and instrumental music, which extend far beyond his setting of In ecclesiis, a somewhat untypical piece, in fact, despite often being used to represent the composer for teaching purposes in historical anthologies of music. Perhaps more significant, however, are the issues represented in the title of the present essay collection: transmission, reception, and—so we shall see—that pesky notion of a specifically 'Venetian' musical tradition.
Rodolfo Baroncini, David Bryant, and Luigi Collarile convened a two-day seminar at the Fondazioni Giorgio Cini, Venice, in December 2012 to mark the 400th anniversary of the composer's death (on 12 August 1612). Those involved clearly had in their sights Baroncini's own magnum opus biography (Giovanni Gabrieli [End Page 543] (Palermo, 2012)): given Baroncini's quite stunning revelations based on a deep trawl of Venetian archival sources barely touched by other scholars, the seminar's focus needed to be elsewhere. Not much is added here in terms of our knowledge of Gabrieli's life, nor even of our understanding of his music (Baroncini had plenty of new things to say on that, too). Rather, the fruits of the seminar presented here fell into four thematic groups: 'The Composer's Legacy: Gabrieli as Model', 'Source Studies: Transmission and Interpretation of the Written Music', 'Organs and Organists', and 'The Composer's Legacy: Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Revival and Revisitations'. The first and last of those parts intersect in intriguing ways, as do the second and third. Indeed, it is worth parsing this volume in ways that cut across the categories identified by the editors given that—so I venture to suggest—a number of the questions left unanswered by various of the contributors could well have found a response elsewhere in the volume.
It is worth starting towards the end. As Iain Fenlon reminds us ('Constructing Images: Giovanni Gabrieli and the Uses of History', pp. 207–17), the beginnings of the Gabrieli revival can be located quite precisely with Carl von Winterfeld's three-volume Johannes Gabrieli und sein Zeitalter (Berlin, 1834)—a truly remarkable work for its time—that appeared two years after his more neglected Johannes Pierluigi von Palestrina: Seine Werke und deren Bedeutung für die Geschichte der Tonkunst (Breslau, 1832). Winterfeld had various political agendas and also a practical one, the latter involving the creation of a repertory for the Singakademien emerging across the German-speaking lands in the nineteenth century. His aim, however, was to establish a lineage from the Franco-Flemish masters of the Renaissance through Lassus and Gabrieli to Heinrich Schütz and thence, of course, to Johann Sebastian Bach. He also needed to fudge the confessional problem of how Catholic composers might have sown the seeds for the greatest works of the German Protestant Baroque.
Schütz was one of a number of northerners who travelled to Venice to study with Giovanni Gabrieli, including Gregor Aichinger, Melchior Borchgrevinck, Mogens Pedersøn, and several others. As many have noted, this accounts for the remarkable spread of Gabrieli's music across the Alps in the course of the first half of the seventeenth century, to which Metode Kokole adds some new nuggets here in 'Echoes of Giovanni Gabrieli's Style in the Territories between Koper and Graz in the First Quarter of the Seventeenth Century' (pp. 51–67). More troublesome, however, is the question of Gabrieli's Italian (or at least, Venetian) students. It is now clear that he took...