The 475th Anniversary of the Death of Costanzo Festa

The Italian composer Costanzo Festa (born between 1480 and 1490 in Piedmont, died 10 April 1545 in Rome) was a member of the papal choir beginning in 1517 and later directed and composed for the Cappella Sistina.  

Not much is known for certain about his life. His oeuvre spans numerous vocal genres. Tenor motets as well as imitative works without a cantus firms are among his 40 motets. He only composed a few settings of the mass and no chansons. Festa is especially famous for his ca. 100 madrigals that are notable for their varying styles. 

Festa’s sacred works are mostly preserved in handwritten sources, but the opposite is true for his madrigals. They were printed beginning in 1530, though contradictory attributions abound. Books printed during his lifetime include a volume of three-voice madrigals (RISM ID no. 1000000129), a four-voice Magnificat, (RISM ID no. 990017877), eight-voice litanies (RISM ID no. 990017878), many madrigals, and some motets in anthologies.

Another Magnificat settings seem to have been printed ten years after Festa’s death (1554). No contemporary print is known of a hymn cycle of his that was in use at the Cappella Sistina for a long time. Even more than 20 years after his death, Festa’s compositions were generally appreciated, which can be seen from numerous reprints in anthologies.

Image: Costanzo Festa, “Se per forza di doglia” from Il primo libro d'i Madregali de diversi eccelentissimi autori a cinque voci, Venice 1542 (RISM ID no. 993102197).
Copy: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München (D-Mbs) 4 155  


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