Giovanni Gabrieli Biography

(Composer, Organist)
Giovanni Gabrieli

Born: 1557

Born In: Venice, Italy

Giovanni Gabrieli was a renowned Italian organist and composer, also a proponent of the Venetian school of music. His musical works mirror the transition from late Renaissance to the early Baroque. Gabrieli was well-known because of a characteristic sound in his music, which was associated with St. Mark’s Cathedral, Venice, where he made noteworthy contributions in vocal and instrumental music. With this, he was able to influence music and its further development of seventeenth century. Gabrieli’s numerous innovations helped him establish as a prominent musician of his time. He brought forward a new musical era carried ahead by the Roman masters belonging to the 17th century. Gabrieli took up prestigious posts and during this time, he composed ‘grand ceremonial music’ which cannot be missed out by any chance, while referring to his life and career. His talents in motets and madrigals made him one of the first composers capable of stipulating instrumentation and volume markings in music. Read on to know more about his life and career.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 55


father: Piero Fais

mother: Paola Gabrieli

siblings: Angela Gabrieli, Domenico Gabrielli, Marina Gabrieli, Matteo Gabrieli

Organists Composers

Died on: August 12, 1612

place of death: Venice, Italy

Cause of Death: Kidney Stones

City: Venice, Italy

Early Life 
Giovanni Gabrieli’s father belonged to Carnia town and shortly after Giovanni’s birth, he moved to Venice. Giovanni had five siblings and he was rather found with his uncle, Andrea Gabrieli who was a composer himself. Giovanni was brought up by his uncle, says the 1587 book of concerti written by Gabrieli. In this book, he described himself to be treated ‘little less than a son’ by his uncle. Giovanni also attended Munich, where he studied with the celebrated Orlando de Lassus at Duke Albert V’s court, where he stayed until the year 1579. Giovanni was very much influenced by Lassus and was considered to inspire Giovanni in developing his unique style of music.
At San Marco di Venezia, also known as Saint Mark’s Basilica, Giovanni served as the principal organist in the year 1584. He returned back to Venice soon. His uncle passed away the following year. After this, he sought to take up editing works of his uncle’s music which would otherwise be lost. Giovanni’s career took a new turn when he acquired the position of organist at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, a post which he retained for the rest of his life. Giovanni Gabrieli composed varieties of music for San Marco. The musical establishment in San Rocco was considered to be the most prestigious organization of all the Venetian confraternities. This organization has witnessed the performances of many renowned singers and instrumentalists in Italy. One may find intense description of musical activities found here in the travel records of Thomas Coryat, an English writer. Europe got to know about this famed composer from his compositions displayed at the San Marco and he acquired reputation among the most noted composers belonging to Europe. Composers from Germany came over to Venice so as to study his dominant volume ‘Sacrae symphoniae (1597)’. He also took steps to encourage scholars to study the madrigals which were being written in Italy. This helped the new students to introduce the grand Venetian polychoral style to their home countries and also develop more intimate styles of madrigals.
Style Of Music
Gabrieli had worked on all forms of music by this time and he would prefer the style of sacred vocal and instrumental music. In order to create salient spatial effects on his works, Giovanni made use of the San Marco church layout with the two choir lofts facing each other. The first motets of Gabriel were published initially beside his uncle Andrea’s compositions in the volume of Concerti in the year 1587. With a close look at these works, one would be able to relate the influence of his uncle’s style majorly on Giovanni’s works. However, after the year 1605, Giovanni’s style developed a distinct change which was noticed in the publication of Monteverdi's Qinto libro di madrigal.
Later in the year during 1606, Giovanni suffered from declining health as a result of which the church authorities appointed deputies in order to take over the responsibilities and perform duties as Giovanni was ill. He developed certain complications from kidney stone and this was the reason of his death in the year 1612.
Major Works
  • Canzoni da sonare
  • Canzoni e Sonate
  • Lo Sposalizio: The Wedding of Venice to the Sea
  • A Venetian Coronation 1595
  • Venetian Easter Mass



Giovanni Gabrieli was born.


Went to Munich; studied under Orlando de Lassus.


Returned back to Venice.


Became principle composer


Book of concerti, expressed dedication to his uncle.


Church authorities appointed deputies to take up Govanni’s responsibilities as his health was deteriorating


Giovanni passed away due to kidney stone related complications.

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