For Zarlino, the 4th was most lachrymose of the modes, ‘even sadder’ than the 3rd, which itself could ‘move to tears’. The harmony, full of mournful semitones, gravitates repeatedly to E major, usually through a ‘dying fall’ from D minor.
Gabrieli specifies the scoring; the characteristic appearance of a single viola among the wind instruments serves to clarify the texture and also recalls a typical Venetian vocal scoring, in which a solo singer on the top voice of a low ‘choir’ would be accompanied by a group of sackbuts. The rhythms of the viola’s opening bars certainly suggest music ‘to an imaginary text’.
from notes by Timothy Roberts © 1997