Unlike other Italian centers of music and culture in the 16th century, private patronage of music in Venice was discourage by a system of political and military appointments that kept prominent families from exerting overwhelming influence. This non-privatization of the arts led to the establishment of the ducal chapel, San Marco (Cathedral of St. Mark’s) in Venice. The architecture of San Marco had a profound influence of musical style. Built in the manner of eastern basilicas, with its Byzantine domes, bright gold mosaics and a spacious interior, there were at least seven areas around the altar from which music was performed. This led to the development of Gabrieli’s polychoral style of dividing forces into two, three or four spatial separated vocal and instrumental choirs.
The text of this motet emphasizes redemption and healing through penance, and was more than likely first performed at a Mass of thanksgiving for the passing of the plague of 1575-77. It calls for three distinct choirs. Choir I is comprised of four soloists accompanied by continuo, Choir II is the full choir accompanied by continuo, and Choir III is a brass choir. The result is a dazzling and expressive display of rich harmonic modulations and virtuosic singing and playing.
© Ryan Turner