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Andrea Gabrieli: Andrea Gabrieli, also called Andrea di Cannaregio, Cannareggio, or Canareggio, (born 1532/33, Venice—died Aug. 30, 1585, Venice), Italian Renaissance composer and organist, known for his madrigals and his large-scale choral and instrumental music for public ceremonies. His finest work was composed for the acoustic resources of the Cathedral of St. Mark in Venice. He was the uncle of Giovanni Gabrieli.
In the late 1550s Andrea Gabrieli left Italy for an extended period of foreign travel. He served in the Bavarian court chapel at Munich under another great Franco-Fleming, Orlando di Lasso, then visited the court of Graz in Austria, and finally was patronized by the noble Fugger family in Augsburg. In 1564 he returned to Venice to become second organist at St. Mark’s, where he remained until 1584, when he succeeded the virtuoso performer Claudio Merulo as first organist—a position he held until his death in 1586. Despite his profession, not much of his output in these years was organ music; there were several volumes of madrigals, socially enjoyable settings of Italian poetry to be sung at private houses or cultural academies, where musical life flourished. And there was the large-scale choral and instrumental music for ceremonies of church and state, for which Andrea Gabrieli is best-known today. His motets and masses exploit the tonal variety possible when instruments are added to a choir. Some of these works were published posthumously in 1587: one of the finest is the Magnificat for three choirs and orchestra, doubtless intended to be performed in St. Mark's.
Although relatively little is known about their lives, the two Gabrielis, Andrea Gabrieli and Giovanni Gabrieli, were among the finest composers of church music in the 16th century, especially in the grand manner for which the Venetian school was renowned and of which they were the most famous members.
Andrea Gabrieli was born in the part of Venice known as Cannareggio (nowadays the area near the railway station) probably between 1510 and 1520. Nothing is known about his early life, though he may have been a singer at St Mark's, and was certainly the organist of the Venetian church of S Geremia (now S Lucia) in 1 558. Shortly after this date, he went to Munich, where he became involved in the group of musicians around Lassus, and travelled widely in southern Germany in 1562, when he attended the celebrations at the coronation of Maximilian II as Holy Roman Emperor. This period in Germany seems to have acted as a catalyst, for from being a total nonentity before it, on his return to Venice about 1566, he became one of the most productive and best-liked composers of his time.
Andrea Gabrieli was appointed one of the organists of St Mark's in September of that year, and almost immediately began publishing music of all kinds. Naturally some of it was church music -masses and motets; but remarkably his secular music was of equal importance. His madrigals were very popular, as were his giustinianae - comic portrayals of Venetian eccentrics showing a keen eye for caricature. It was probably in the 1570s that he began writing for the large forces then being built up in St Mark's, adopting that style known as cori spezzati, whereby different groups of musicians were stationed in the various galleries of the basilica, so that the sound came from widely separated places. He also was one of the pioneers in using instruments not just to double the voices but to add depth (and height) to the ensemble. Some of this music is among the most brilliant of its time and reflects the glory of the Venetian Republic, whose visitors it was meant to impress. Andrea Gabrieli's grandest music was not published until after his death in 1586, when it was collected and edited by his nephew, Giovanni Gabrieli, whose music was to be even more renowned than his own.
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