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Canzone e Sonate No.18 (1615) By Giovanni Gabrieli


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Gabrieli’s Canzone e Sonate No.18 (1615) is scored for 4 Trumpets and 10 Trombones or 4 Trumpets, 2 Horns, and 8 Trombones. This edition contains alternative parts so you can use either instrumentation.

In the General Introduction, it’s been noted that many of the pieces in the 1615 collection adhere to a compositional framework characterized by one or two dominant, recurring ideas, often fulfilling the function of a ritornello, akin to contemporary vocal music practices. However, this particular composition stands out from the rest due to its departure from this pattern. Instead of alternating with new themes, the main idea is heard concurrently with them—an approach seldom seen in ensemble music of the period, though reminiscent of keyboard compositions from around the same era, such as those by Sweelinck.

The resulting effect is remarkably effective: while the initial exposition treats the main theme in imitation conventionally, thereafter, it primarily resounds in the bass, often simultaneously across all three choirs. Meanwhile, the upper parts introduce lively, contrasting motives, frequently engaging in imitation themselves. This results in a texture characterized by relentless contrapuntal interplay, yielding a notable degree of incidental dissonance. However, this dissonance is not arbitrary; rather, it arises logically, particularly in harmonic terms. The slow tempo necessitated by the elaborate upper parts accentuates the dissonance of passing notes, lending them greater prominence compared to typical instances of such dissonance.

Of particular note is the composition’s conclusion, which is rather remarkable for its time. Here, the two high parts persist in executing their echo figure even after the other parts have concluded their final chord – a departure from conventional endings. Although unique, a similar concluding gesture can be observed in Viadana’s Sinfonia “La Bergamasca.”

In terms of instrumentation, this piece notably stands as the sole composition in the 1615 collection with complete instrumentation specified in the original manuscript. The upper parts of Choir I and their equivalents in Choir II are designated for cornetto, while all other parts are designated for trombon. In this edition, the parts have been transposed down a tone to align with more convenient keys for modern brass instruments.

Take a look at some sample pages to the left and then click above for an immediate PDF download.

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