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Canzone e Sonate No.7 (1615) By Giovanni Gabrieli


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Gabrieli’s 4 Canzone e Sonate No.7 (1615) is written for Trumpets and 3 Trombones or 4 Trumpets, Horn, and 2 Trombones. This edition includes alternative parts so you can use either instrumentation.

This piece represents one of the closest examples to a fully monothematic canzona in Gabrieli’s repertoire, at least within the ensemble setting (as opposed to keyboard compositions, where this style is more prevalent across various composers). Here, the initial motif serves as the focal point throughout, with any additional themes introduced playing a relatively minor role. Even the final section of the composition, marked in duple time, maintains its foundation on this same motif— a somewhat uncommon approach for the time period. However, in keyboard music, such variation on a single theme is more commonplace, as seen in works by Trabaci or Frescobaldi. This monothematic structure imbues the piece with a perpetual motion quality, with the primary variation occurring in terms of texture. Though occasional fresh rhythms are introduced, typically in larger triple-time signatures like 3/4 against the underlying 6/8.

Interestingly, Gabrieli notated the piece in the equivalent of 3/4 time, indicated by the C3 time signature. One plausible explanation for this choice could be the challenge of accurately representing the 6/8 rhythm at the specific tempo suited for this canzona. Another consideration might involve minimizing visual clutter, as the avoidance of “coloration” or black notes may have influenced this notation style, despite its occasional usage in other pieces within the collection. Notably, the prevalence of the 6/8 rhythm is relatively rare in compositions of this era.

Despite the final section’s continued use of the main motif, performers should not misinterpret the rhythmic relationship between the sections. While it may seem intuitive to maintain a strict proportionality between them, the tempo of each section is notably influenced by the harmonic rhythm. In the main section, each note of the motif is harmonized, while in the duple-time section, the motif is utilized decoratively over static harmony, suggesting a potentially faster tempo for those notes compared to the main section. This nuanced approach ensures a cohesive and musically satisfying performance.

Regarding performance, particularly on modern brass instruments, a delicate touch is paramount. Players are advised to maintain a moderate tempo and volume, allowing the lilting rhythm of the main section to shine through by keeping the quavers relatively short. While technically feasible to play at a faster pace, doing so risks compromising the piece’s distinctive character.

In terms of instrumentation, the brass parts have been transposed down by a tone, while the original manuscript provides no specific instructions regarding instrumentation, allowing for interpretive flexibility in performance.

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

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