Birth: ca. 1532 in Venice, Italy
Death: Aug 30, 1585 in Venice, Italy
The Basilica of San Marco in Venice boasted one of the most prestigious musical establishments of the sixteenth century. Adrian Willaert founded a veritable "Venetian School" of composition; it later flowered in the works of Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi, and maintained its prominence well into the eighteenth century. In addition to the choirmaster/composer, San Marco employed two organists. Beginning with Annibale Padovano, these musicians also established their own internationally recognized school of playing and improvisation. Andrea Gabrieli, though often overshadowed by his nephew Giovanni, contributed mightily to both the composition and organ playing at San Marco early in its musical Renaissance.
Though very little information about his early life survives, it seems evident that Andrea Gabrieli quickly entered the musical profession. His death certificate lists his age as "about 52," leading to a birth date of 1532 or 1533; he was probably born in the Cannaregio quarter of Venice. In the early 1550s, he may have been studying music with Vincenzo Ruffo in Verona; Gabrieli returned to Venice, however, to serve as organist in his old parish church. At the age of 25, he lost a stiff competition to replace one of the San Marco organists (Claudio Merulo won). The next few years of Gabrieli's life remain a mystery. He next surfaces in Germany in 1562, where he was accompanying the Ducal Chapel of Munich - and its director Orlande de Lassus - on a state visit to Frankfurt; Gabrieli's connection to Lassus resulted in both great musical inspiration and splendid political contacts. By 1564, Gabrieli was employed in some capacity at San Marco, finally obtaining a post as organist in 1566, which he retained until his death in 1585.
There are several indices for measuring Gabrieli's vast musical influence. Though he frequently shied away from publishing his music, posthumous editions demonstrate his wide output in every genre of Venetian sacred, secular, and dramatic music. One posthumous print, the Concerti (1587), was still influentially selling copies in 1650. In addition to composing music for some of the greatest Venetian ceremonial occasions, Gabrieli's music often was dedicated to highly important figures such as Pope Gregory XIII and bankers such as the Saracini and the Fuggers. Finally, he cemented a musical legacy through his numerous (and in turn influential) students: Lodovico Zacconi and his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli in Italy, and Gregor Aichinger and Hans Leo Hassler, who both traveled from Germany to learn the Venetian style from Gabrieli.
- Timothy Dickey (All Music Guide)