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Canzone e Sonate No.14 (1615) By Giovanni Gabrieli


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Gabrieli’s Canzone e Sonate No.14 (1615) is written for 6 Trumpets and 4 Trombones arranged into two choirs.

This canzona captivates primarily through its rich variety of textures rather than any singular element. Notably, the distribution of parts within each choir is noteworthy, comprising two high parts with roughly equal ranges, two bass parts similarly balanced, and a fifth part that occupies a somewhat ambiguous role. Gabrieli’s decision to designate violins for the top part and cornetts for the second in each choir allows for the exploration of intriguing textural effects. For instance, in bar 56 and onwards, the blending of the two lower voices from both choirs creates a dense imitative texture, complemented by responses from the second and third voices. Additionally, passages featuring interplay between the violins and cornetts further showcase the composer’s innovative approach, breaking down the traditional division between choirs and expanding the range of possibilities beyond what was typical in Venetian canzonas before 1615.

While much of the piece calls for a sustained style of performance, there are moments of cross-rhythms that benefit from a more pointed articulation. It’s important, especially when performing on modern brass instruments, to ensure that the short exchanges between the upper parts do not escalate in volume progressively. This composition is characterized by carefully crafted climaxes written directly into the score, negating the need for performers to forcefully emphasize them.

In terms of instrumentation, the brass parts in this edition have been transposed down a tone from the original manuscript. The original instrumentation specifies violins for the top part and cornetts for the second in each choir, providing insight into Gabrieli’s intended sonic palette. This decision underscores the significance of maintaining fidelity to the composer’s original vision while allowing for adaptation to modern performance contexts.

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