About this Piece
Composed: before 1597
Length: 3 minutes
Orchestration: 4 trumpets, 4 trombones
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: January 15, 1970, Zubin Mehta conducting
Giovanni Gabrieli composed his Canzon septimi toni for the majestic St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, where he was organist and principal composer from 1585 until his death. Gabrieli came from a musical family - he succeeded his uncle Andrea as principal composer at St. Mark's and edited many of the latter's works for publication. After Gabrieli's father died in 1572, when Giovanni was a teenager (the year of his birth is unknown, but speculation places it between 1554 and 1557), uncle Andrea was likely his guardian and teacher.
The Canzon comes from a collection of music for brass that Gabrieli composed for church use and published in 1597 under the title Sacrae symphoniae. This was the first collection devoted exclusively to Gabrieli's works, and it reflects his experience as a church musician. The pieces in the collection are for various combinations of trumpets and trombones, whose players would have been placed antiphonally inside St. Mark's to take advantage of the church's acoustics and to clarify the dialogic musical structure of works such as the Canzon. The Canzon septimi toni (so-called because it is written in the Mixolydian church mode, which is based on G, the "seventh tone") shows Gabrieli developing musical material in dialogue between instrumental groups. The spatial arrangement of the various instruments is necessitated by the score's antiphony, with the instruments answering each other from all sides of the performance space, enveloping the listeners in a late 16th-century version of surround sound, an effect recreated here by having the musicians play from different parts of the auditorium.
- John Magnum is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Program Designer/Annotator