In Ecclesiis

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In Ecclesiis is Giovanni Gabrieli's magnum opus and most famous single work. A masterpiece of polychoral techniques, it also epitomises Baroque and Renaissance styles, with its prolific use of pedal points and extended plagal cadences.

Written while Gabrieli was the organist at St Mark's Basilica, Venice, the music was designed to be performed in this unique building. The individual groups of musicians and singers would have been spatially separated around the grand architecture creating a polychoral, antiphonal texture that is difficult to replicate in modern performances.

Although the text can be considered sacred, it is not liturgical.

There are four groups and Continuo/Organ. These groups are set in two being instrumental, the other two made up of male singers.

  • Group One (Soloists) whose parts are fluid and virtuosic.
  • Group Two (Chorus) whose parts are mainly homophonic though a few bars have a more contrapuntal texture. This group is restricted to a seven-bar 'Alleluia' refrain repeated between various solo and instrumental sections.
Alto 1
Alto 2
  • Group Three
First Cornett
Second Cornett
Third Cornett
  • Group Four
Tenor Trombone
Bass Trombone
  • Continuo-Organ and String Bass

The work would have been originally performed with an all-male choir. The instrumental groups here are only likely to be found in a historically accurate performance. It is more likely that the Cornetti are replaced by either Trumpet, Cornet, or Oboe.

The overall structure of this piece is like a rondo where the 'Alleluia' chorus is sung between each section.

The piece mainly uses simple chords (I, IV and V), but the use of suspensions, consonant fourths, passing notes, and other sophisticated uses of dissonance create points of tension and excitement. The work is usually scored in A minor but the lack of the G# gives the modal (Aeolian) tonality. Many phrases end with a Tierce de Picardie where the music will end with an A major chord.