He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.
Gabrieli was a leading figure in Renaissance Venetian music. He succeeded his uncle Andrea Gabrieli, an organist at Venice's St. Mark Basilica after his uncle's death in 1586 and retained this position until his own death in 1612. His work as a composer represents the height of musical achievement in Renaissance Venice.
Gabrieli continued the traditional cori spezzati techniques developed at St. Mark's during the sixteenth century, contrasting different groups of singers and instrumentalists and making use of the spatial effects possible in the great basilica. His eight-part setting of the Jubilate, using double choir and brass, is typical of his style of writing.
The most widely known of Gabrieli's works is the Sonata pian' e forte, an eight-part composition for two four-part groups of wind instruments included in the Sacrae Symphoniae of 1597, with a number of instrumental Canzoni for between six and sixteen parts. These works, and a quantity of compositions of a similar kind, including Toccatas and Ricercars, have provided an interesting repertoire for modern brass players, although originally they were played by instruments such as the sackbuts (‘the earlier form of trombone’), and the cornetti (‘curved wooden instruments with a cup-shaped mouth-piece’).