Four weeks ago I published a composition from Johann Woltz’s “Nova musices organicae tabulatura”, (Basel, 1617) called “Fuga colorata” ( The question at the time was whether or not it could have been composed by Simon Lohet. After engraving, playing and recording that composition I am fairly certain it is not a composition by Lohet. So my Edition of Lohet’s complete organ works ( , that does not contain this “Fuga colorata”, remains in my opinion ‘complete’.

Woltz’s “Nova musices organicae tabulatura” contains another “Fuga Colorata”. To accompany the first “Fuga colorata” I decided to engrave and publish this second one as well. According to the index of Woltz’s publication that one was composed by Asam Steigleder. However, in another source (the Turin tablature Foà 3) this same composition is attributed to Giovanni Gabrieli, thoug there it is called a canzona instead of “Fuga colorata”. The attribution in the Turin tablature is thought to be genuine (though I have no idea why), so for now I consider this composition to be composed by Giovanni Gabrieli.

Gabrieli’s birth year is uncertain, but it must have been somewhere between 1554 and 1557. Gabrieli was fortunate to have an uncle, Andrea Gabrieli, who was an outstanding musician. Andrea Gabrieli was the principal composer of ceremonial music for St. Marco in Venice. After Andrea’s death, Giovanni took over his postiion at the St. Marco. The St. Marco was unique in having two choir lofts and two organs, high above the transept, that faced each other. This unusual arrangement encouraged St. Mark’s composers to experiment with sound. As the church was wealthy composers who work in St. Marco could hire a large number of musicians. Giovanni Gabrieli used the musical resources and the spatial arrangement of the two choir lofts to devide instruments and choirs in two or more groups. This arrangement was called cori spezzati, or separated choirs. Both choirs would sing parts of the liturgical music in a call-and-answer like fashion. St. Mark was so large that the resonance, spatial location of the choirs and reverberation became a part of the composition, literally surrounding the congregants with sound.

Besides composer and organist, Giovanni Gabrieli was a good teacher as well. He had numerous pupils, several of them from German origin of which Heinrich Schütz was the most well known. Gabrieli’s music was widely played and copied in Northern Germany. Through his pupil Heinrich Schütz, Gabrieli had a large influance on the early Baroque music in Germany.

The “Fuga colorata” attributed to Giovanni Gabrieli is not a fugue in the modern sence of the word. Though it starts with a fugal like exposition, the theme of that first episode does not reutn in the rest of the composition. This “Fuga colorata” is more like a contrast canzona, with about 6 brief different sections. In these sections imitations, complementary motifs, echo passages, chords and toccata like passage work alternate. Together they form a joyful work that is a pleasure to play.

I play this piece on two manuals, alternating between one hands on different manuals and both hands on the same manual. The idea is to contrast different sounds a bit, and by using two manuals to contrast the location of the sound. After all, this music was probably composed by the master of the cori spezzati of the St. Mark in Venice.

The recording was done on the sampleset, made by Voxus, of the Matthijs van Deventer-orgel in the Grote Kerk, Nijkerk.

pdf_iconGabrielli, Fuga Colorata

Gabrielli, Fuga Colorata

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