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Canzone e Sonate No.9 (1615) By Giovanni Gabrieli


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Gabrieli’s Canzone e Sonate No.9 (1615) is written for 3 Trumpets and 5 Trombones or 3 Trumpets, Horn, and 4 Trombones. This edition includes alternative parts for use with any ensemble.

This piece serves as a captivating exploration of a continuous, non-sectional structure, unfolding over a straightforward bass formula recurring every few bars. The bassline comprises only four notes, transposed into various keys and occasionally appearing in rhythmic variations, particularly towards the conclusion. While not strictly adhering to an ostinato pattern, the frequent repetition of the bass figure, coupled with the rhythmic intricacies of the other parts- characterized by frequent dotted values and hemiola-bars in a basic meter-imbues the composition with qualities reminiscent of the emerging bel canto aria style of the time. However, unlike typical Italian songs of this period, Gabrieli infuses this piece with thematic richness, utilizing the quasi-ostinato bass figure as a structural foundation for various motifs treated in different sequences.

Performing this piece presents challenges, especially on modern brass instruments. Among the 1615 pieces, it particularly requires a restrained dynamic level and a delicate touch. Any hint of “brass band style” playing risks undermining the gentle character of this canzona. Successful execution hinges on players’ ability to listen to one another and articulate motifs consistently, such as the dotted figure at bar 62. Additionally, attention to the hemiolas, especially at cadences, is crucial for maintaining the rhythmic integrity of the composition.

Similar to other pieces in the collection, the original manuscript provides no specific instrumentation. However, for this edition, the brass parts have been transposed down by a tone to ensure alignment with the intended tonal framework.

In essence, this composition represents a compelling blend of structural innovation and thematic development, challenging performers to balance technical precision with expressive sensitivity to capture the essence of Gabrieli’s gentle yet intricate musical tapestry.

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

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