100. Costanzo Festa [365 Composers for 2013]


10th April – Costanzo Festa

Festa (c. 1485–1490 – 10th April 1545) is our composer for 10th April, to mark the day of his death.
Nationality: Italian
Lifespan: Uncertain
Genre: Renaissance
Education: Unknown
Fame Ranking: 5

Costanzo Festa’s early life is something of a mystery, since few records exists from that time. Scholars think he was most likely born in the late 1480’s, but it is not known where he studied or how he embarked on his musical career. The first we hear of him is in 1514, since he wrote a motet to commemorate the death of the Queen of France in the January of that year. A motet is a polyphonic song – meaning that each singer’s voice has an individual tune and the voices are woven together to create harmony. This was quite a new technique at the time. A motet is usually a song with a religious theme; if the subject matter is secular then the piece is called a madrigal, and Festa was a champion madrigal writer too.

We know that Festa was working in prestigious roles until his death. He was employed by the Pope at the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Prior to that he had served the aristocratic d’Avalos family on the island of Ischia, in the bay of Naples. He wrote many pieces for specific occasions, such as weddings, deaths and commemorative days, which is lucky for us since it makes dating his work a lot easier! He was considered to be especially important in the history of music because he was the first Italian composer to attempt to combine the Italian style with the Franco-Flemish style of counterpoint. Without going into too much detail, the Franco-Flemish school used  “universal principles of polyphonic development, known as continuous imitation and complex counterpoint, which are based on mathematical calculations of intervals and geometric transformations of motifs,” (1) At this time, music was at its most innovative in the Netherlands, and scores of musicians travelled from the Low Countries to Italy to share their ideas.

Apart from motets and madrigals, Festa also wrote a lot of instrumental music. He died in Rome.

Listen to this song “Jesu Nazarene” by Festa:


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Listen to more works by Festa – click the box!


 (1) http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Franco-Flemish+School


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