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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

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Volume 21 (2015) No. 1

Published 2017

Giovanni Gabrieli and His Contemporaries: Music, Sources and Collections. By Richard Charteris. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. [xii, 336 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4094-0369-2. ₤90.]

Reviewed by Rebecca Edwards*

1. Overview

2. Giovanni Gabrieli

3. Gabrieli’s Contemporaries

4. Pragmatic Concerns and Conclusions

References

1. Overview

1.1 The occasion for publishing eleven musicological articles by Richard Charteris in a single volume in 2011 was the anticipated celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Gabrieli the following year.[1] In his introductory essay, Charteris states that “the over-arching glue that binds the essays together,” despite disparate subjects, genre, regional provenance, and musical traditions, is their historical setting in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.[2] The foregrounding of the most important musician to be discussed—Giovanni Gabrieli is the focus of the title and opening three essays —establishes a raison d’être for the copious fruits of a research odyssey through central and eastern Europe and England. In the process, Charteris presents the reader with new discoveries about not just Giovanni Gabrieli, but a number of roughly contemporary composers such as Hans Leo Hassler, Alfonso Ferrabosco, John Coprario, John Dowland, John Jenkins, William Lawes, and Benjamin Rogers, as well.

1.2 Historiographically speaking, this European journey would not have been possible before the latter years of the twentieth century, when the reorganization of the political map following the fall of the Soviet Union presented scholars with exciting new research opportunities. Charteris’s career has been devoted to the discovery and re-discovery of musical sources, and he has brought to the multiplicity of tasks, which include the proper examination and description of musical sources, the consideration of provenance and dating, and the study of performance practice, not just indefatigable energy and curiosity, but extraordinary diligence in solving a vast array of musicological problems. These essays present only a small segment of a life’s work committed to this journey, as the Index of Music Manuscripts at the end of the volume attests.

1.3 While it may not have been the author’s intention to present a broad range of problems and challenges to the musicological researcher, this volume, nevertheless, achieves such a goal. Questions about autograph manuscripts, analysis of hands and copyist habits, watermarks, foliation, historiography, damage to fragile masterworks—all topics pertinent to the essays in this volume—accompany the usual inquiries regarding musical and stylistic analysis and the contextualization of works in the oeuvre of early modern composers. One particularly interesting essay is number eight,[3] which, in addition to meticulously studying the manuscript Mus. ant. pract. P 970 at the Biblioteka Jagiellonska in Krakow, Poland, traces the habits of specific English music collectors, whose favorite possessions traveled from England to Berlin for safer keeping at a Benedictine monastery at Grussau (now Poland), and were subsequently transported by troops to the Jagiellonska.

2. Giovanni Gabrieli

2.1 To the reader interested in the title composer, the most important articles are, undoubtedly, the first, second, and third in the volume.[4] By examining heretofore unknown additions by an anonymous annotator of partbooks of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Symphoniae sacrae extant in Warsaw, Charteris’s first article effectively solves the long-time problem of corrupt transmission of Sancta et immaculata (a7) and the Magnificat (a17), two pieces that were printed posthumously in 1615 by Gabrieli’s student, Alvise Grani. The second essay furnishes new evidence about the performance of Gabrieli repertory at the Protestant church of St. Anna in Augsburg, where Adam Gumpelzhaimer (1559–1625), a Gabrieli contemporary, served as Kantor. Clues in partbooks and, especially, manuscripts now at the Regensburg Library, throw light on the use of dynamic indications, language markings, repeats, spatial arrangement of choirs, indications of vocal and instrumental distribution, and even structural alterations, changes that Gumpelzhaimer apparently felt free to make. While Charteris acknowledges that no evidence exists proving that Gumpelzhaimer and Giovanni Gabrieli ever met, he argues that they were closely acquainted through a vast network of patrons, acquaintances, colleagues, and students, including the young Wilhelm Lichtlein, who left St. Anna for Venice to study with Giovanni Gabrieli in 1605.[5] Charteris believes that a sophisticated and intimate understanding of Gabrieli’s style by Gumpelzhaimer renders these performance indications particularly valuable.

2.2 The third essay of the volume analyzes one of two unattributed keyboard works in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preussischer Kulturbesitz, which fits the style and compositional techniques of Gabrieli’s extant monothematic ricercars. A mature, eloquent piece, this composition combines and exceeds characteristics of an earlier tradition of Jacques Buus and Andrea Gabrieli. Sophisticated maneuvers, such as passing elements between the hands, “as if he were contrasting choirs in a polychoral composition,” also bespeak the foundational influence, however subtle, of the flamboyant Claudio Merulo, whose works helped to shape the young Giovanni’s style.[6] Moreover, the upper range of this composition provides clues to the capabilities and limitations of San Marco’s organs during Giovanni Gabrieli’s career.[7] Charteris sees in this piece an example of the practice of copying and sharing that effectively disseminated a sizable keyboard repertory throughout Italy, Germany, Poland, and the Low Countries, and that preserved a number of attributable pieces, some of which are still to be identified.

3. Gabrieli’s Contemporaries

3.1 A leading member of the close circuit of Giovanni Gabrieli’s immediate contemporaries, Hans Leo Hassler (1564–1612) studied in Venice with Andrea Gabrieli and, after returning northward, became a colleague to Adam Gumpelzhaimer in Augsburg. Like many composers of the era—Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder, Costanzo Festa, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and Cipriano de Rore, to name a few—Hassler revised older compositions for fresh publication, the subject of Charteris’s seventh essay.[8] Gumpelzhaimer’s score book devoted to sacred vocal works, also in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preussischer Kulturbesitz, preserves expanded copies of Giovanni Gabrieli’s and Hassler’s works, including music for additional choirs and revised parts. Single-choir pieces are transformed into double-choir compositions, and distinct musical effects enhance the text and antiphonal textures. Those interested in how large choral works and polychoral sacred masterpieces were put together will find fascinating reading here.

3.2 If the previously mentioned essays form the nucleus of this book, some of the other articles offer unrelated discoveries about music by composers with far less universal appeal than Giovanni Gabrieli. Autograph manuscripts by John Coprario and lost repertory of the English composers William Lawes, John Jenkins, and Benjamin Rogers show how a number of musical sources have been collected, annotated, placed in storage for wartime safekeeping, lost, re-discovered, preserved, catalogued, and newly re-catalogued. Charteris’s decades of research throughout western and eastern European libraries and archives offer evidence for how the music printing industry, which already benefitted from a wide means of circulation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, ignored maps and language barriers to affect the development and dissemination of style.

4. Pragmatic Concerns and Conclusions

4.1 This volume is organized neither by the date of each essay’s first publication, nor by the approximate dating of sources or historical materials under consideration. Rather, it proceeds geographically from Italy, especially the Veneto, via a meandering route through Germany, England, Poland, and back to England—an organization that, to this reader, seems more arbitrary than helpful.

4.2 Nor is the visual presentation of the materials uniform. As is typical of many Ashgate volumes, each essay has been photo-reproduced exactly as it appeared previously in other scholarly journals, including original pagination, sometimes at the bottom of each page, sometimes at the top. Typefaces range from large and bold to faint and small, frequently compromising the legibility of footnotes. Some essays have footnotes; some, endnotes. Some are furnished with abstracts, conclusions, and appendices; others totally lack them. Musical examples range from clean and legible to murky and difficult to read. Without the benefit of any apparent fresh editing, all the essays retain original mistakes, hence the necessity for the corrigenda at the end of the volume. The only real aid to the reader is in the form of Roman numerals (I–XI) added to the pages of each of the eleven respective articles.

4.3 As a book that celebrates the 400th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Gabrieli, this volume joins other offerings in homage to this important composer. Its usefulness will be largely to the specialist in Italian or English sixteenth- and seventeenth-century music (although scholars of Lawes or Playford, Simon Ives, or Henry Purcell, would, unfortunately, not know from its title to look in this volume for pertinent material). He or she might well have known one or more of the essays from their original publications, many of which are available online. Thus, the book’s greatest usefulness may be in graduate seminars devoted to musicological research methods and materials, where it would offer wide-ranging testimony to the fruits of persistent, alert research by one of the most intrepid musicologists of our time.

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