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Hyperion Records

CDA67167 - Gabrieli: Missa Pater peccavi
CDA67167

Recording details: September 1999
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: July 2000
Total duration: 64 minutes 56 seconds

PREMIO INTERNAZIONALE DEL DISCO ANTONIO VIVALDI, PER LA MUSICA VOCALE

'A welcome addition to the catalog … excellent playing of His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts – their contributions to the program are uniformly brilliant. Makes me want to hear more' (Goldberg)

'Andrea Gabrieli has been overshadowed by Giovanni. This disc confirms his craftsmanship as composer' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A real gem' (Gramophone)

‘The compositions selected here are uniformly lovely: florid and ornately decorated … these are velvety readings’ (www.classicstoday)

Missa Pater peccavi
Kyrie  [3'45] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [5'43] LatinEnglish
Credo  [9'23] LatinEnglish

The uncle of the great Giovanni Gabrieli, Andrea Gabrieli is often overshadowed by his nephew, yet he was one of the greatest and most approachable composers of the High Renaissance. Late in his life Andrea composed a Mass for four choirs, but most of his music requires only relatively modest forces; yet it has all the colour, imagination and emotional immediacy that we associate with the best Venetian art of the 16th century. In 1562 Andrea formed a lasting friendship with Lassus while visiting Germany, and the music of Lassus can be seen to be an important influence on his own. Andrea seemed reluctant to publish his work, and consequently much of his music cannot be precisely dated (his instrumental music was not printed until after his death). However, the music on the present disc is remarkably consistent in style, quality and personality, even if it was published over a period of 40 years. The programme presented here is not planned as a liturgical reconstruction, though the movements of the Mass have been separated by instrumental items. Overall, the mood moves from sorrow and penitence to reconciliation and joy.

The Missa Pater peccavi is one of three Masses for six voices printed in 1572.


Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Just as, to most people, the name ‘Bach’ on its own will normally conjure up Johann Sebastian, so ‘Gabrieli’ normally refers to the great Giovanni, the composer of sumptuous and expressive church music whose fervour and directness give it a universality far beyond the particular Catholic liturgy that brought it into being. And, like Bach, the strength of Giovanni’s musical personality has tended to cast the work of his predecessors into deeper shadow; with our Darwinian attitudes to music history, it is all too easy to see earlier Venetian composers like Willaert, Rore, and Gabrieli’s own uncle, Andrea, as merely paving the way for the great man. Particularly in the case of Andrea, his very closeness to Giovanni has, it seems, obscured the fact that he is himself one of the greatest and most approachable composers of the High Renaissance. Late in his life Andrea composed a Mass for four choirs, but most of his music requires only relatively modest forces; yet it has all the colour, imagination and emotional immediacy that we associate with the best Venetian art of the sixteenth century.

At a time when Italian music was dominated by Flemish composers, Andrea Gabrieli was a native Venetian, born around 1510, probably in Cannareggio in a northern part of ‘the floating city’, where he became organist of the Church of San Geremia. He may have sung at the basilica of St Mark’s as early as 1536, but was unsuccessful when he applied for the post of second organist there in 1557; the successful applicant was Claudio Merulo, whom Girolamo Diruta claimed was the finest player in Italy. Andrea eventually succeed Merulo when the latter became first organist in 1566, and finally became first organist in 1584. A year later his nephew Giovanni joined him as second organist.

Neither of the Gabrielis ever became maestro di cappella, but both wrote large amounts of church music for St Mark’s and other Venetian musical establishments. Andrea was also a successful composer of madrigals and festive secular music. He seems to have travelled little outside Venice, but an important journey, in the company of his nephew, was to Germany in 1562, when they accompanied the Munich court on a state visit to Frankfurt-am-Main. At this time Andrea formed a lasting friendship with Roland de Lassus, whose music was an important influence on his own.

In his Grove article on the Gabrielis the late Denis Arnold points out that, although the Venetian printing trade was flourishing, Andrea seems to have been reluctant to publish his work, and consequently much of his music cannot be precisely dated. Indeed, his instrumental music was not printed until after his death, mostly in editions overseen by his nephew. However, the music on this disc is remarkably consistent in style, quality and personality, even if it was published over a period of more than forty years. Our programme is not planned as a liturgical reconstruction, though the movements of the Mass have been separated by instrumental items. Overall, the mood moves from sorrow and penitence to reconciliation and joy.

The Missa Pater peccavi is one of three Masses for six voices (expanding to seven in the Agnus Dei—in this performance the extra voice is played instrumentally) printed in 1572, and is a ‘parody Mass’ based on Andrea’s own motet Pater peccavi in caelum, which had been included in his earliest published collection, the Sacrae cantiones of 1565. As in many such works composed in the period after the Council of Trent (1542), this mass eschews elaborate counterpoint—or rather, wears its polyphonic art lightly—so that the words and their meaning may be clearly understood by the listener. Pietro Cerone’s prescription for a well-set Mass, codified some decades later in his El melopeo y maestro of 1613, applies well to the Missa Pater peccavi:

The Gloria and Credo … are composed as continuous movements, without solemnity and with less imitation of the parts, using imitations that are short, clear, familiar, and closely woven, unlike those of the Kyries, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Deis, which (as I have said) should be long, elaborate, less familiar, and less closely woven.

It may be seen that good composers have taken care to make the parts sing all together, using such slow notes as the breve, semibreve, and minim, with devout consonances and with harmonious intervals, upon the words ‘Iesu Christe’. This is done because of the reverence and decorum due to their meanings. The same is usually observed upon the words ‘Et incarnatus est’ to ‘Crucifixus’. To use imitations and lively progressions here, with other graces, is a very great error and a sign of great ignorance.

The composer … is at liberty to write the Christe, the Crucifixus, the Pleni sunt caeli, the Benedictus, and the second Agnus Dei for fewer voices than are used in the work as a whole …

Gabrieli does not in fact reduce the number of parts for the ‘Christe’ or ‘Pleni sunt caeli’, but he does use smaller contrasted groupings of three or four voices for certain phrases, sowing the seeds, as it were, for the tonal contrasts and conversational responses that would later lead to the Venetian polychoral style.

Venetian title pages of this period frequently refer to mixed vocal and instrumental scorings, as do contemporary descriptions and depictions of actual performances. But composers rarely specified which parts should be sung and which played (all were customarily texted, even when intended for instruments); this was to some extent a matter of the performers’ choice, and only later did Giovanni Gabrieli and others make the conventions explicit in certain works. Our approach to the Mass in this recording is not intended as a reconstruction of any actual performance, and is inevitably conjectural. The full ensemble consists of six solo voices doubled by six instruments, with the organ (as was customary, if it was playing at all) also doubling all the parts. The scoring is reduced to voices and organ for the ‘Qui tollis’ and the trio settings of the ‘Crucifixus’ and ‘Et resurrexit’; elsewhere—in the ‘Christe’, the ‘Benedictus’ and the first ‘Agnus Dei’—we mix voices and instruments in various ways. The aim is a variety that does not distract from the music’s essential simplicity, and of course the result is only one of many possibilities.

Even the collection of penitential psalms that Andrea printed in 1572 specifies instruments as well as voices. Indeed, a wholly instrumental performance is one possibility. For mixed scorings, care has to be taken in choosing which parts should be sung and that sections of text do not get left out. For the setting of De profundis clamavi we chose to have the third and fifth of the six parts sung, and this creates ritornello-like instrumental sections when the sung parts are silent. This also happens in the beautiful Communion motet O sacrum convivium when performed, as here, as a consort song by a solo soprano and four instruments. Anna Sarah Pickard adds florid ornaments, a particular feature of Venetian singing as well as playing, to Gabrieli’s top line.

Though Andrea Gabrieli’s works for instrumental ensemble are few in number and modest in scale, they are as masterly as his vocal music and have much in common with the more familiar language of Giovanni’s canzonas and sonatas. Seven four-part Ricercari were printed in 1589 at the end of a posthumous collection of madrigals. These are not necessarily intended for instruments: they could be sung, either wordlessly or to solmization syllables (ut re mi etc.), or indeed intabulated as keyboard music. Each is composed on one of the traditional church modes or tones, which in Renaissance theory had their own expressive characteristics. (For further information, see the notes on Giovanni Gabrieli’s 1597 canzonas and sonatas, Hyperion CDA66908.)

Ricercari are often serious contrapuntal pieces that explore (‘ricercare’ means ‘to seek’) all the possibilities of a single theme, and this is true of the long Ricercar in the first mode which opens our programme. Its sad opening tune (later transformed by Giovanni Gabrieli in his four-part canzona La spiritata) is heard in many plangent harmonizations, in various combinations with two subsidiary themes, and finally at both half and double speed simultaneously. This is a masterpiece worthy to stand beside Bach’s essays in similar style in The Art of Fugue.

The other two four-part Ricercars heard here are livelier, canzona-like pieces with a sectionalized ‘quilt’-like construction similar to contemporary madrigals. The one in the sixth tone is dark-hued, with a low-lying top part, while that in the triumphant twelfth mode is bright, and has two contrasting triple-time sections. Though only for a single ‘choir’, once again the music of Giovanni Gabrieli seems but a simple step away.

Only one larger-scale Ricercar by Andrea Gabrieli survives, an eight-part piece that, similarly, appeared in print only after the composer’s death. It looks dense on paper, but in performance reveals itself as a gorgeous piece of Venetian colouristic writing in which the contrapuntal skill is almost submerged by the richness of the instrumental sonority. For the recording we arranged ourselves in a quasi-random order that was nevertheless designed to reveal a glorious moment when the instruments, for three bars only, divide into two groups of four—giving birth to the polychoral canzona! This is an unusual piece with few successors, the most notable of which are two of the ten-part pieces in Giovanni’s 1597 collection (Hyperion CDA66908 tracks 3 and 7).

Andrea’s functional Intonazione del sesto tuono for organ is highly ornate, as was traditional in this kind of liturgical scene-setting. But in general his keyboard music is less florid than that of his colleague Merulo, and what ‘divisions’ there are are carefully placed to mark climaxes, cadences, and section breaks. This is evident in the Ricercar in the seventh mode, a piece that is really a slow canzona with a succession of overlapping themes, each one explored thoroughly and entertainingly.

Petit Jacquet is one of a number of settings of existing pieces, in this case a work (whether vocal or instrumental) of unknown origin. Ancor che co’l partire, on the other hand, is a decorated setting of one of the most famous madrigals of the century, composed by Cipriano de Rore. I play the version printed by Bernhardt Schmidt the younger in 1607, more elaborate than that included in Giovanni Gabrieli’s edition of his uncle’s keyboard music; the extra ornamentation seems rather too subtle for Schmidt, and may, I conjecture, be by Andrea himself.

Timothy Roberts © 2000

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