Madrigali, Motetti et Missa quatuor vocum
The motets for double choir presented on this CD exhibit all the characteristics of a grandiose and richly sonorous style. Their most distinctive trait is their homophony: imitative sections are used sporadically and leave ample room for the rhythms of the text and the full sonority. Two of the motets, the Magnificat and "Laudate Dominum" (both Vespers psalms), are constructed over a Gregorian chant. The Magnificat alternates polyphonic sections with plain chant though, in contrast to usual practice, it ends with the Gregorian versicle rather than the polyphony. The cantus firmus appears irregularly and is often merely uttered by the tenor before being immediately elaborated by all voices. Though it is almost never treated structurally as a real tenor (in the polyphonic sense of the word), the chant melody may nonetheless be considered the basis for the entire thematic development. A detail of considerable modernity is the manner in which the theme is altered to become entirely tonal rather than modal. The same type of treatment is found in the "Laudate", where the cantus firmus is passed between the two tenor voices like a fragment and thematic idea. The Missa quatuor vocum is extant in a Bolognese codex containing various compositions attributed to Costanzo Porta. The attribution is not certain but the hypothesis is supported by the curator of Porta’s opera omnia, Siro Cisilino. The Mass is definitely based on an pre-existent piece and probably follows the design of a Missa parodia. Though it has not been possible to identify the model used, the Ionic tono, a rather unusual choice in sacred music, leads one to assume that the original piece was secular.