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CANZON I (1615)

This is the most conservative piece in the collection. Superficially it is not very different from the canzonas
o f older composers such as Maschera or Merulo; it shares with them such standard features as the traditional
rhythm of the opening theme, the recapitulation of the initial section at the end, and the series of imitative points
occassionally relieved by more homophonic texture. However, a closer look reveals a number of characteristics
more typical of Gabrieli at his best. The opening theme, for instance, is “ developed” far longer than it would
have been by Maschera; it is also typical o f the seventeenth-century type of ricercar subject in that it is a double
theme of the kind that later developed into the “ subject” and “ countersubject” of the Baroque fugue. In this
work the second half of the theme, as it were, is still fairly vague, consisting of little more than a normal suspension
that is sometimes extended into a sequence, but the fact that it is developed in its own right (for example, bars
19-22) is significant, especially since Gabrieli took this type of construction further in other pieces in the 1615
collection (notably no. 3). Other typical Gabrielian features are the dotted motive starting at bar 30, and the
expressive “ madrigalesque” gesture involving a diminished fifth (a common interval in Gabrieli’s late works)
that occurs several times in the top part (e.g. bar 36). It is noticeable that the middle section with its greater
harmonic range and more varied texture is more advanced in style than the opening section; consequently the
recapitulation of the initial section in “canzona style” effectively sets off the expressive middle section.
In this work the bass parts have been transposed down a tone. The original presents no editorial problems:
a few insignificant errors have been silently corrected. No instruments are specified in this piece.

Bernard Thomas
London, 1972