After having read numerous references and listened to countless recordings, I have come to the realization that we'll never really know what Gabrieli heard when his music was first performed at San Marco. We can do all the scholarly research in the world and even play reproductions of the instruments originally used in the basilica itself, but without a time machine, we will always fall short of knowing exactly what those performances sounded like.
The important thing, though, is that we keep striving to find ways to be as faithful as we can be to Gabrieli's intentions, even though we may not know exactly what those were. I have not come to the conclusion that we should only play this music on period instruments, though. Playing on period instruments is certainly a valid and honorable way to reproduce Gabrieli, but not the only way. If it were the only way, Gabrieli's music would be performed a lot less often, since not everyone has access to or the ability to play these instruments, and I think Gabrieli should be performed as often as possible. I also don't mind it being played on conical instruments such as the French horn or tuba (maybe, as a horn player, I'm biased and am just looking for an excuse to play this music).
As was proven in some of the recordings I presented, particularly the London Symphony Brass CD, very sensitive and musical performances can be produced on large modern instruments--in the hands of sensitive, musical players under the direction of informed conductors. The important thing us for musicians to educate themselves on original and modern performance practices and make the most musical decisions possible for each performance. I'm pleased to say that I think this is happening more and more where Gabrieli's music is concerned.
As a member of a brass quintet, I actually play Gabrieli quite often (mostly 4-part canzonas with the bass doubled), and throughout the course of this project keep asking myself the following question: "Is my playing of this music changing as I become more informed about its performance practice?" Well, I'm still not sure, but I find myself reminding myself to lighten up on the articulations, not play so darn loud, and let the acoustics do the work (I also remind my colleagues of these practices--I'm sure they're sick of it by now). I hope I've become a better performer through this project and hope to keep improving.
The more I work on this project, the more I realize there is to learn and do. I don't know if I'll ever really consider this project "done", so maybe I'll have to revisit it from time to time and maybe even add some content. Thanks for stopping by!