Born: April 15, 1651; Bologna, Italy
Died: July 10, 1690; Bologna, Italy
Baroque-era Bologna, possibly owing to the contemporaneous invention of wire-wound cello strings in that city, became a pioneer in producing idiomatically virtuosic compositions for cello that challenged the hegemony of violin music. Domenico Gabrielli, whose nickname "Mingéin dal viulunzèl" means the little Domenico of the cello, in Bolognese dialect, was born in the city in 1659 and celebrated as one of Italy's first traveling cello virtuosos.Read more As a composer, he was influential in liberating the cello from its role as an undifferentiated bass instrument, allowing the individual characteristics of the cello to shape the music written for it. Gabrielli wrote some of the earliest known works intended for the unaccompanied cello.
Gabrielli studied composition in Venice with Giovanni Legrenzi and the cello with Petronio Franceschini in Bologna. In 1676, he was elected to the Accademia Filarmonica, a recently established music society in Bologna that would go on to become one of the most illustrious academies in Europe; in 1683, he was chosen to be its president. After Franceschini's death, Gabrielli took over his teacher's position as a cellist at the pre-eminent music institution in Bologna, the orchestra of San Petronio, in 1680. In the 1680s, he gained fame as a cello virtuoso and a composer of vocal music. His many engagements away from his duties at San Petronio -- he frequently performed at the Este court in Modena, and his operas were produced in Venice, Modena, and Turin -- eventually led to his dismissal from the orchestra in 1687. Duke Francesco II d'Este, himself an amateur cellist, seized the opportunity to engage Gabrielli at his court in Modena. Found to be indispensible, Gabrielli was restored to his position at San Petronio the next year, where he would remain until shortly before his death at the age of 30.
All of Gabrielli's extant cello music -- two sonatas, one in two versions, and a set of seven ricercari -- dates from the last two years of his brief life. His ricercari for cello exhibited advanced techniques -- double, triple, and quadruple stops and florid passagework, large leaps, and unusual modulations -- and an improvisational character. In his vocal works, he assigned a prominent place to the cello as an obbligato instrument. Gabrielli was widely recognized for his operas, and wrote many forms of vocal and instrumental music, including oratorios, serenatas, cantatas, and a variety of religious works. Read less
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