Performers: Bart Coen Peter de Ciercq, Baldrick Deerenberg, Koen Dieltiens (recorders); Beátrice Delpierre, Mirella Ruigrok, Michéle Van den Broucque (dulcians); Björk Frithof Smith (cornett); Wim Becu, Dominique Lortie, Joost Swinkels, Simen Van Mechelen (sackbutts); An Van Laetham (Renaissance violin); Kristina Kyprianides, Piet Strijckers, Paulina Van Laarhoven (viols); Matthieu Lusson (violone).
Playing time: 52:26
Recording date: June 2002
Festa's monumental set of 125 "contrapunti," or variations, on the "La Spagna" theme, was never published, and, though occasionally mentioned by later theorists, was largely forgotten after his death. These variations survive in a manuscript of one hundred, fifty-seven contrapunti on the La Spagna theme and are there attributed to Giovanni Maria Nanino (1545-1607). It has been established that the first one hundred, twenty-five of these contrapunti are in fact by Festa, the rest being Nanino's work. The wealth of invention in these works is astounding, the more so because Festa has each contrapunto begin with the first note of the theme and end with the last, and employs some portion of the theme in every intervening bar. Fully one hundred, twenty-one contrapunti also retain the thirty-seven bar length of the original theme. Festa uses a variety of techniques in composing counterpoint, including canon, ostinato, borrowing (from Josquin's "La sol fa re mi" theme and various Italian madrigals), imitation, and soggetto cavato (the use of Guidonian solfege syllables to turn words into notes; in contrapunto 104, the names of Isabella and Ferdinand, rulers of Spain, are so treated). Comparison is made to Bach's Goldberg Variations, although, if the present recording is any indication of the length of the rest of the work, Festa's opus is slightly more than three times as long as Bach's. Voices are employed on some tracks (e.g., track 28), but in general the works are given a purely instrumental rendition.
Paul Van Nevel's subtitles are given in French italics above. The music probably dates to the 1530s.
Another recording featuring some of this and related music:
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