This section is dedicated to the examination of performance practice of Gabrieli's works. I can think of no composer whose name is more synonymous with performance practice than Giovanni Gabrieli. It is hard to think about his music without imagining how it was played in the various organ lofts in San Marco. The antiphonal nature of the music makes it almost impossible to resist the temptation to try to recreate the sonority of San Marco in some way when performing it. There was no iTunes or YouTube in Gabrieli's day, of course, so we'll have to rely on written documentation of original performances (see my essay in the previous section for more information), but we are fortunate today to have many musicians performing Gabrieli's works and making audio and video recordings for us to study and enjoy.
The first video is of the Orchestra of the 17th Century performing Gabrieli's Canzona noni toni a 12, along with some lovely images of instruments for which the music was originally written and of San Marco. Throughout the rest of this section are recordings of various different ensembles, along with my comments comparing them. While the differences in these recordings will usually be obvious, they all have one thing in common: a love for Gabrieli's music and a desire to create musically faithful performances. They just go about it in very different ways--some concentrate on reproductions of the instruments used in Gabrieli's day, some focus on reproducing the antiphonal sound through recording practices, and some try to incorporate stylistic characteristics of period instrument performances into their modern instrument performances. As you browse these clips, you'll see what I mean--enjoy!
This recording of Canzon primi toni a 10 was made in 1997 by Timothy Roberts and His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts. It is a fabulous period instrument recording that also includes a violino, which contributes to a lighter sound. Gabrieli was not always specific in his instrumentation (though more often so than was the custom at the time), but we know that violinos were sometimes used. (Kenton 490)
This performance of Jubilate Deo, also from the CD made by Andrew Parrott and the Taverner Consort, Choir and Players, beautifully shows off Gabrieli's writing for vocalists and instrumentalists. The two groups blend extremely well, the instrumentalists clearly playing in the most singing style possible.
I have no comparison for this clip, but it being the Holidays, I thought I'd include this beautiful recording of O magnum mysterium. It was made by King's College Choir and the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble with Stephen Cleobury in King's College Chapel in 1986, and again is a gorgeous display of the intermingling of vocal and brass choirs in Gabrieli's writing.
Incidentally, I performed this piece at a Christmas service in a beautiful Church in Jacksonville, FL a few years ago. The vocal choir was up front near the pulpit and we brass players were in the balcony at the back of the church. It was a challenge keeping it all together since the acoustics were incredibly live, but ultimately it was a memorable and inspiring moment for all performers involved.