Giovanni Contino. Missae cum quinque vocibus, liber primus (1572). A cura di Ottavio Beretta. (Monumenti musicali italiani, 20.) (Opere di antichi musicisti bresciani, 8.) Milano: Edizioni Suvini Zerboni, 1997. [Prefazione, p. vii-xix; criteri editoriali, p. xx; descrizione delle fonti, p. xxi-xxiii; apparato critico, p. xxiv-xxix; bibliografia, p. xxx-xxxiv; 3 plates; score, p. 1-258. Cloth. S. 11246 Z. L 160,000.]
Giovanni Contino. Ioannis Contini Ecclesiae Cathedralis Brixiae Magistri Modulationum Quinque Vocum Liber Primus (Venice: Scotto, 1560). Edited by Richard Sherr. (Sixteenth-Century Motet, 25.) New York: Garland, 1994. [Contents with remarks, p. v-vi; gen. introd., p. vii; editorial procedures, p. ix-xi; vol. introd., p. xiii-xvi; plate, p. xvii; score, p. 1-278. Cloth; acid-free paper. ISBN 0-8240-7925-6. $125.]
Born in Brescia in 1512 or 1513, Giovanni Contino worked in Trent under Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo, in Brescia as maestro di cappella (where he may have taught Luca Marenzio), and for Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga in Mantua, where he died in 1574. Although not well known today, Contino must have been quite a successful composer in his own time, for in 1560 and 1561, the Venetian printer Girolamo Scotto published what amounted to the composer's "opera omnia" (Jane Bernstein, Music Printing in Renaissance Venice: The Scotto Press [1539-1572] [New York: Oxford University Press, 1998], 200) that consisted of one volume each of introits, madrigals (with two more now lost), Masses, Lamentations (reprinted in 1588), hymns, and three books of motets (two for five voices and one for six). In addition, two more prints, containing Magnificats and Masses for five voices, were published later.
Thanks in part to the Centro di Studi Musicali "Luca Marenzio" in Brescia, Contino's music has begun to appear in modern editions. Five publications have appeared to date in the series Opere di antichi musicisti bresciani (subsumed under the larger series Monumenti musicali italiani): two volumes of madrigals edited by Romano Vettori (Il primo libro de madrigali a cinque voci, 1560 in 1987 and the collection Madrigali a quattro e cinque voci in antologie e intavolature in 1994); and three volumes of Masses edited by Ottavio Beretta.
The two volumes here under consideration, the first books of Masses for four and for five voices (issued in 1561 and 1572), are part of Beretta's large-scale plan to edit all of Contino's Masses. Published in 1988, the first volume (Cinque Messe mantovane dal fordo Santa Barbara, a cinque voci) contains the Masses Contino wrote for the special liturgy of Santa Barbara in Mantua and also most helpfully provides all of the associated plainchant. The edition of Contino's Masses will attain completion upon publication of the final volume in the set, which as noted in Beretta's preface to the 1561 collection of Masses (p. vii n. 1), will contain "a full and detailed critical and historical study of the entire corpus of Masses, including detailed analyses of the compositional structure of each Mass." The other volume addressed in this review is Richard Sherr's edition of Contino's five-voice motets of 1560. Part of the thirty-volume set Sixteenth-Century Motet issued by Garland Publishing, it forms a worthy comple ment to the Brescian editions.
It is instructive to compare the Beretta and Sherr editions. The transcriptions in both are very accurate, and the publishers present the music and text in an attractive, easy-to-read layout with generous margins. In fact, the two volumes of Beretta's edition perhaps provide too much unused space in both the music and the preface. The policy concerning unnoted accidentals differs markedly in the two editions. Sherr adds no accidentals, relying on the performer's judgment, whereas Beretta supplies a large number of accidentals (some of which I would omit, such as the B[flat] in m. 20 of the tenor part on p. 97 of the 1561 edition). The music too has a very different appearance in the two series: Sherr reduces note values by half, while Beretta retains the original values. Certainly Beretta's decision makes it easier to envision the original notation.
In his concise introduction to the volume of motets, Sherr focuses on Contino's biography. He tries to solve the problem of the "twelve entire years" that Contino reports he spent in the service of Cristoforo Madruzzo before returning to his native Brescia in 1551 (in the dedication to the 1560 motet edition, reproduced in facsimile on p. xvii). Scholars such as Paolo Guerrini ("Giovanni Contino di Brescia." Note d'Archivio 1 : 130-42) hypothesized that Contino served in Trent from 1541 to 1551 and later returned to Trent in 1558 to account for the full twelve years. Sherr argues instead that Contino entered Madruzzo's service in 1539 or 1540. In fact, both Vettori (1560 madrigal edition) and Beretta himself (edition of Mantuan Masses) had already made a similar claim, based in Beretta's case at least indirectly on documentary evidence.
In contrast, Beretta devotes his introductions exclusively to the historical background of the Masses. Because he wrote at length on Contino's biography in his commentary on the Mantuan Masses, Beretta even dispenses with mentioning the composer's birth or death year. These introductions are problematic in certain respects. Beretta assembles a large quantity of information about each Mass, some of it out of date, some simply irrelevant. For the opening Mass of the 1561 book, Missa Veni Sancte Spiritus, for example, Beretta starts with a definition of the tenor Mass, citing a few sentences about Guillaume Dufay's tenor Masses from the Italian translation of Gustave Reese's Music in the Renaissance (La musica net Rinascimento [Florence: Le Lettere, 1990]; English editions published in 1954 and 1959). Next he comments on the sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus and gives a long list of motet settings from John Dunstable to Tomas Luis de Victoria, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and even Contino. The relevance of the se settings is unclear, particularly since Contino's Missa Veni Sancte Spiritus is not a parody but a paraphrase Mass.
Beretta continues with the plausible scenario that the Missa Veni Sancte Spiritus was the Mass sung to open the first session of the Council of Trent. In this case, it would appear that at the very early stages of the council, no one was concerned about the intelligibility of the text in church music. This Mass is written in the typical polyphonic style of the time and even includes the text of the sequence in one voice. It is very different from the later pieces in the intelligible style, such as the Preces speciales by Jacobus de Kerle, commissioned for the Council of Trent by Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg in 1561.
One problem with the introduction is that Beretta includes everything found in the course of his research on each piece. For the next Mass, Missa de Beata Virgine, which contains the Marian trope Spiritus et alme, Beretta first lists ten troped Masses, and then those which use the same pattern of the cantus firmus: Kyrie IX, Gloria IX, Credo I, Sanctus XVII, and Agnus Dei XVII. Nor does he stop here but goes on to list Masses with various other patterns of the Ordinary chants.
I do agree with some of Beretta's conclusions but not all. He suggests that the Missa Illuminare Hierusalem is based on the responsory Surge et illuminare Jerusalem. I do not believe that the chant actually served as the compositional point of departure, however, since only the first three notes match Contino's setting. There may, of course, be a local version of this chant in Trent. But more likely the Mass is actually based on a polyphonic model for these three reasons: it is noteworthy that the cantus and altus are similar at the beginning of all five movements; the openings of the Kyrie and Sanctus are almost identical; and the Gloria and the Credo end exactly the same way, with quick exchanges of duple and triple meter four times in the last sixteen measures and melodies that are identical except for small rhythmic details.
Beretta believes that the Missa Congratulamini mihi is a parody Mass based on Adrian Willaert's motet, although he does admit to a loose relationship between the Mass and the model. He notes that the Christe and the second Agnus Dei end with the characteristic plagal cadence of the model. In reality, however, the only similarity is a "I-IV-I" progression in the bass of the Agnus. The Christe does not even end with a plagal cadence. No other materials of the model--melody, harmony, or texture--are discernable in the Mass. Compared with another parody Mass in this volume, Missa Benedicta es, where the composer
quotes the opening and the ending materials of Willaert's motet Benedicta es in the usual places within the Mass, the citations in the Missa Congratulamini mihi are too brief, lasting only four semibreves. I would not call this work a parody Mass.
The Missa Congratulamini mihi and Missa Illuminare Hierusalem seem to form a distinctive pair among the Masses in this volume. They are shorter than the other Masses; have similar lengths for each of their five movements; and remain unwavering in their use of four voices throughout the Mass. Further striking similarities arise from the division of movements into sections in these two Masses. Both Credo movements consist of four sections--"Patrem," a very short "Et incarnatus est," "De spiritu sancto," and "Crucifixus"; such a sectional division appears nowhere else among Contino's Masses. The Sanctus movement consists of two sections--Sanctus and the first Hosanna. Usually in polyphonic Masses the Benedictus begins as a separate section, but in these two Contino Masses, the first Hosanna and Benedictus sections are sung continuously without interruption. (The Missa de Beata Virgine also has this Sanctus pattern, although there is a change of meter from triple to duple at the beginning of the Benedictus.) I know of no other examples of this practice of dividing the Sanctus (including Palestrina's 104 Masses). These distinctive characteristics, possibly indicat ive of performance practice, deserve further investigation.
The third volume of Continos music here under consideration is the collection of five-voice Masses published in Milan by Paolo Gottardo Ponzio in 1572, two years before the composer's death. This print is particularly noteworthy because three of the five Masses are reworkings of Masses that Contino had composed about ten years earlier for the Mantuan liturgy. These Masses, of course, were never previously published, destined as they were for only the closed society of the Gonzaga court. It is understandable that the composer chose to reuse the material, perhaps to save time and energy.
There are two main characteristics of Mantuan Masses: they are based on the plainchant used at the cathedral of Santa Barbara and the texts are divided between chant and polyphony in alternatim style. Thus Contino had to compose new polyphony for sections that originally were chanted and to rewrite polyphonic sections where the Santa Barbara plainchant differed from Roman use. In the first Mass of the print, Missa de Beata Virgine, for example, only the Gloria could retain the Mantuan polyphonic sections. Even in the Missa Octavi toni, where all five movements are constructed from sections of the Mantuan Masses, Contino had to rewrite the "Quoniam" section of the Gloria because the chants were different. As Beretta notes, since most of the Mantuan sections begin with imitative polyphony and end on the finalis, Contino's original versions needed adjustment by adding new sections to fit into a new overall design. Contino thus had to change some of the cadences and adjust the joining polyphony between points of imitation. There are other alterations as well. More of the accidentals are written Out, some repetitions of text in the polyphonic sections are omitted, and the text underlay is somewhat improved. Contino discards the separate "Amen" sections at the end of Gloria and Credo in the Mantuan Masses in favor of more elaborate counterpoint.
Contino made several curious mistakes during this process of recomposition. In the Missa Octavi toni, constructed on polyphonic sections of the Mantuan Missa Duplicibus majoribus, he evidently skipped "Tu solus dominus" in the Gloria, which should have been newly composed. Perhaps he made this mistake because the chant melody in the Mantuan kyriale for the preceding "Quoniam" is different from Roman use, and the polyphony had to be recomposed. This probably caused Contino to regard "Quoniam" as an even-numbered line that he had to compose, leading him to the next odd-numbered line (this newly composed "Quoniam" should be added to the critical apparatus on p. xxv).
A similar mistake occurs in the Credo of the same Mass, where Contino mixes up the two adjacent lines of text "Qui ex Patre Filioque procedit" and "Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur." In m. 171, the quintus wrongly starts the imitative phrase with "Qui cum Patre et Filioque" while a measure later the cantus enters correctly with "Qui ex Patre et Filioque." These two lines of the Credo are also combined in the Missa Te Deum laudamus (one of two Masses not based on the Mantuan materials in the print) when all five voices incorrectly sing "Qui ex Patre et Filio simul adoratur." How did this mistake happen? Did Contino's memory fail him as he composed music for this familiar text?
Since the quality of the transcription is very high, I hope that Beretta will quickly complete his edition of Contino's Masses with the final volume and analytical study that he has promised. Scholarly editions of such a high quality are always most welcome, particularly when they bring the music of less well-known composers to light.
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|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2000|
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