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Andrea Gabrieli

Organist of San Marco and leading light of the Venetian School

Scene from the Battle of Lepanto

Andrea Gabrieli (1532 – 1585) was probably born in Cannareggio, and may have studied the organ under the famous Adrian Willaert, the maestro di cappella at St Mark's.

Gabrieli travelled to Munich in 1562 where he met the influential Franco-Flemish composer Orlande de Lassus, who wrote some of the most influential vocal madrigals and motets of the Renaissance and proved an immense inspiration. On his return to Venice in 1566, he was appointed organist at St Mark's Basilica, a position he held for the rest of his life.

He was a key figure in the development of the polychoral Venetian School of music, inspired by the unique acoustics of St Mark's. He composed a wide range of music from madrigals and large-scale choral and instrumental music for great public ceremonies, most famously the music celebrating the great victory over the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto. His music was sumptuous and grand, full of textures, looking ahead to the Baroque.

Gabrieli also composed the music for the chorus of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, the play performed at the 1585 opening of Palladio's Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (the fascinating wood and plaster setting for the play by Scamozzi, who finished the theatre after Palladio's death, remains remarkably intact).

He also worked as a teacher, most famously of his nephew, Giovanni Gabrieli, who published many of his uncle's compositions after his death.

Music and Musicians

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by PD Art