Prima Fuga, Sopra la Bergamasca

Fra Giovanni Battista Fasolo

Annuale che contiene tutto quello, che deve far un organista per risponder al choro tutto l'anno





The Italian keyboard settings of the Bergamasca

Section: Variation Canzona

Music Example: Number 1

Vince Ho

San Francisco State University. Masters Theses Collection - Degree in Music History



Copyright Vince Ho 1993


Fra Giovanni Battista Fasolo was born in Asti, Lombardy around 1600. We know that Fra Fasolo was not the guitarist and composer Francesco Manelli (1594-1667), whose nickname was `Il Fasolo'.1 We also know that Giovanni Battista Fasolo became a Franciscan friar by 1645, because Fasolo described himself as `FRA GIOVANBATTISTA FASOLO D'Asti, dell'Ordine de Minori Convente di S. Francesco' on the title page of his Annuale (1645).2 However, despite his claim as a Lombard, Fasolo seemed to spend most of his life in Sicily.3 By 1659 Fasolo became the maestro di cappella to the Archbishop of Monreale.4 Fasolo appeared to enjoy good patronage as a Sicilian composer, for he dedicated his Annuale to the Duke of Mont Alto Prince of Paterno (near Cantania). Despite spending most of his life in Sicily, Fasolo apparently was either a well-travelled or a well-connected personality since his Annuale was printed in Venice, while copies of this monumental work could be found all over Europe. Both his Beatus Vir and Magnificat were published in Naples. Fasolo had many students, among whom there was one certain Bonaventura Aliotti.5

Discounting the Misticanza di vigna alla Bergamasca (1627),6 Il Carro di Madama Lucia (1628) and Se desiate o bella(1629) -- all published by Robletti in Rome -- which were attributed to the above mentioned `Il Fasolo',7 Fra Fasolo had published at least nine works in his life. Besides the Annuale (1645) which I will discuss later in detail, Fasolo also published Arie spirtuali e morali, concertate per ogni voce a due e tre e nel fine alcuni dialoghi a tre voci e due arie a canto e Bc. con due violini, Libro I, Op.9. This vocal work as published by O. Bisogni in 1659 at Palermo. It is from the title page of this work that we know that Fra Fasolo was by then appointed to the post of maestro di capella. Selfridge-Field writes that the work was composed in the then popular concertato style, and that the composer set the text by himself.8 A pair of vocal works, the Beatus vir qui timet and the Magnificat anima mea, both scored for five voices, were published in the collection of Bartolomeo Cappello's Sacra Animorum Pharmaca Musicis quinque vocum concentibus contexta. The collection was published by C. Lucolum in 1650 at Naples.9 Finally, Selfridge-Field also mentioned that Fra Fasolo had composed and performed a now lost opera, Constantino, at the Jesuit College of Palermo in 1653.10

Being an organist, Fra Fasolo made his greatest impact on the music world with his Annuale che contiene tutto quello, che deve far un organista per risponder al choro tutto l'anno (1645). It is from the opening dedication to his prince that we know that the Annuale is Fasolo's eighth published work.11 Like Frescobaldi's Fiori Musicali ten years earlier, the music was intended for church use. Similar to the Fiori Musicali, Fasolo had the same publisher (Allessandro Vincenti) and he had the work published in the same city (Venice). The Annuale, which uses an open score format, consists of a Te Deum, nineteen hymns, three organ masses, a Salve Regina, eight Magnificats, eight ricercars, eight canzonas and four fugues. Unlike the Fiori Musicali which is organized strictly according to liturgical procedure of the Mass, the Annuale groups its pieces by genres. As Steven Bonta explained, Fasolo intended that the work be performed in the `alternatim' style, i.e., the organist and the singers are responsible for performing the verses alternately.12 The Annuale is one of the earliest publications which gives direction to the act of performing an Organ Mass.13 It is particularly important since its publication place is in Venice, a fact which gives us a better understanding of the organ's liturgical usage in early seventeenth century Venice.

The Annuale is clearly more of a southern Italian work than a northern work since most pieces were based on cantus firmi, a practice which was also used by a Palermitano, Giovanni del Buono, on his Canoni Oblighi et Sonate in Varie Maniere sopra l'Ave Maris Stella (1641). The southern Italians always tended to be more religious than their counterparts, probably due to the harsh counter-reformation atmosphere under the Spanish Government in which the inquisition was always a fact of daily life. Their wide use of cantus firmi in music also reflected the Neapolitan Government's policy on suppressing artistic creativity for religious and political reasons.14

Besides having an instruction on how and when to play the pieces, Fra Fasolo's long preface of the Annuale also guaranteed that the book should provide the organist with enough music for the entire church year. The Annuale seemed to be a commercial success. Today copies can be found in Naples, Assisi, Munich, Vienna and Regensburg.15

The work which concerns us the most in this study is Fra Fasolo's setting of the Bergamasca. It is the Fuga Prima, sopra la Bergamasca. On how to play his four fugues, Fasolo suggested the fugues "... vogliono essere sonate allegre, e dove sono crome, ò simicrome, si soneranno, some fossero meze puntate, che la cantilena riesce più spiritosa ..." ("... want to be played fast, and where they are chromatic or semi-chromatic, then maybe play them with thrusts, which makes the music more spirited ...") In other words, play them fast. On when to play them, the composer again suggested, "Se l'Antifona sarà breve, si potrà Pigliare una delle fughe sopra gl'obligho, ò vero una delle Canzoni second il Tono, che caderà." ("If the antifon is too short, then you can take one of the fugues with the obligho, or one of the canzone according to the tono whichever comes in handy."). That is, play the fugues if the antiphon is too short. Steven Bonta, meanwhile, even pinpointed exactly where to play the Bergamasca fugue: right after the Magnificat antiphon.16

Although Fra Fasolo uses the word "fuga" for his Bergamasca, the work is clearly a variation canzona. During the early seventeenth century, there is still no clear definition for the word "fugue". According to Apel, the word "fuga" first appeared as another word for a canon by Oswald von Wolkenstein (1377-1445), then changed its meaning to Leonhard Kleber's (1490-1556) pieces of freely imitative paraphrase of another vocal work. Bernhard Schmid the Younger (1555-1625) simply defined the fugue as canzona alla francese. Gabrieli and Maschera (late 16th century) also called their instrumental canzonas `fugues'. But it was Simon Lohet's (1550-1611) fugues in the Woltz's tablature in 1617 which forever changed the meaning of the word. These fugues are usually less than a hundred measures and have no more than three or four sections. Most importantly the subjects of these fugues are either the same or are all related. This is vastly different from the canzonas of the time when pieces are usually more than a hundred measures long, with multiple sections containing unrelated subjects. Lohet's fugues are ricercar like and less chordal, hence they are more modern.17

Although the controversy on the word fugue was by no means ended (many composers still call their canzonas "fugues"), the Bergamasca fugue of Fra Fasolo certainly fits Lohet's types as it is remarkably simple. It only has three sections, with the third part using a similar theme or structure to the first part. Thus the fugue can be classified as an ABA' composition. All three sections use the same theme. It is only seventy-five measures long and is in Mixolydian on G. The theme is similar to the Uccellini Bergamasca theme.18

The first section, in 4/4, begins with the entrance of the subject through the four voices in the order of bass (tonic), tenor (dominant), alto (tonic) and soprano (dominant) within the first ten measures. There is no episode, as the voices provide further entries of the subject until the end of the section (mm.28). The subject does occasionally enter in stretto form (ex. mm.18-19). This section has a very chordal, canzona-like characteristic.

The second section (13 measures long), in 3/2, sees the augmented subject counter against an unrelated second theme. The entries are not as standard as the normal double-fugue of the mature Baroque era, since Fra Fasolo does not provide a tenor voice entry of the main theme. Entries are particularly tight in mm.5-mm.8. Fra Fasolo's four measures cadence at the end, in 4/4, are completely out of context and actually reflect the piece's improvisatory nature. Since the third section of the piece is also in 4/4, this four measure cadence may also serve as a bridge between the two sections.

The third section's beginning can reflect the fact that a formal fugal procedure did not exist during Fasolo's time. Fra Fasolo started the section with a stretto. The first entry of the subject is in the tenor, then within the same measure the subject enters again in the alto. Not until mm.4 does the subject enter the soprano, and then the bass three measures later. The subjects then enter through various places until mm.20 when Fra Fasolo first provides part of the counter-subject in sixteenth notes. This is in fact the first sign of the flourishing finish which Fra Fasolo has intended. Indeed by mm.23 the countersubject is now completely in sixteenth notes. Other than the subject and the countersubject, the remaining two voices provide mere half notes. By mm.30 Fra Fasolo indicates the performer to slow down by writing "Si allenta la pausa per metà." By this stage the piece no longer resembles a fugal piece, but rather a keyboard toccata as the piece ends in mm.35.

In conclusion I think this piece can still be classified as a variation canzona because the subject is still the center of this three-sectioned piece, and in places where it is not in an improvisatory stage, it is quite chordal. However, the piece's shortness and its monothematic nature point more towards the early fugue. The cadence of the last two sections (especially the third) reminds us of the toccatas of Gabrieli. However this is definitely not a ricercar of any sort because of its loose form. Finally, I think that this looseness in form, especially when the flourishing finale is played without any hint of a cantus firmus, and the fact that Fra Fasolo named this short canzona as a `fuga', indicate that Fra Fasolo's educational background is clearly northern Italian or Venetian. Despite his stay in Sicily throughout his life, Fra Fasolo's early life in Lombardy, Annuale's Venice publication and the fact that four of the five surviving copies of the book are found north of the Neapolitan Kingdom (three of which are actually found north of Italy)19, all these details support the notion that Fra Fasolo received a northern education. This indeed will have nothing to do with Fra Fasolo using a southern way to organize his book. Therefore I think that we should treat Fra Fasolo's work as in the northern Italian style regardless of the composer's residence.



1 Eleanor Selfridge-Field, "Giovanni Battista Fasolo," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie, ed. (London: Macmillan, 1980).

2 However, according to the Dizionario della Musica e dei Musicisti, Fasolo did not belong to the San Francesco Convent until 1653. See Anon, "Giovanni Battista Fasolo," Dizionario della Musica e dei Musicisti, Alberto Basso, ed. (Turin: UTET, 1983).

3 Selfridge-Field.

4 According to Dizionario della Musica e dei Musicisti, Fasolo actually held the post of "maestro di cappella nel duomo di Monreale" from 1659-1664. See Dizionario della Musica e dei Musicisti.

5 See Dizionario della Musica e dei Musicisti.

6 John Whenham, "Francesco Manelli," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie, ed. (London: Macmillan, 1980).

7 Federico Ghisi, "Giovanni Battista Fasolo," Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Friedrich Blume, ed. (Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag Kassel und Basel, 1949-1951).

8 Selfridge-Field.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 James Frank Monroe actually had the entire Dedication of the Annuale translated. Here is the beginning:

For many years I have been urged by some of my scholars, and by others of the profession to write an Annual containing all that an organist needs in responding on the organ to the chorus; I accepted the task, and with the passage of time I have completed it. This is the eighth part of my lazy talent, which blushes to appear in the presence of Your Excellence, not for being so simple (because being under your glorious name it is exalted and enriched) but because it is soiled with the ink of my pen...

For its entirety, please consult: James Frank Monroe, "Italian Keyboard Music in the Interim Between Frescobaldi and Pasquini (and) Musical Supplement" (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, 1958; reprint, Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms, 1974), Musical Supplement, p.33.

12 According to Owens, the `alternatim' practice originated in the twelfth century. It usually involved the alternate singing between the soloist and the choir in the Mass. During the time of the Notre Dame school, plainchant and polyphonic verses were performed alternately. The organ also began to be performed upon in the `alternatim' style at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Owens took the Te Deum as an example, and mentioned that the organ, the canonesses and the clerks each took a turn to take a verse during the ceremony. During the Renaissance and the Baroque, most organist would perform their verses by treating them as cantus fermi while improvising. For the French, the organist and composers even composed entirely independent free pieces for the verses and not use the cantus firmi. For further details, see Samuel Battie Owens, "The Organ Mass and Girolamo Frescobaldi's Fiori Musicali of 1635. Music for Two Organs. Four Lenten Motets of Alessandro Scarlatti" (Ph.D. diss., George Peabody College for Teachers, 1974; Microfilm, Ann Arbor: Xerox University Microfilms, 1974). p.7-10.

13 According to Stephen Bonta, Bologna's Adriano Banchieri (1567-1634) published his L'Organo suonarino in 1611. This was the best Italian organ music published with a direction concerning church performances. Although many composers such as Giovanni Matteo Asola (d.1609), Girolamo Diruta (1557-1612), Frescobaldi and Giovanni Croci (c.1641) all had composed organ music for liturgical use, Banchieri's L'Organo suonarino was considered the best for beginning organists because of Banchieri's exhaustive explanation on performance procedure. It is also extremely useful on the practice of the `alternatim Masses', as Banchieri intended this music to be performed in this particular fashion. Although Fra Fasolo's extensive performance direction concerning the `alternatim' style in his Annuale is not the first of its kind, it nevertheless is a good accompaniment to Bachieri's similar work. For further information, please consult: Steven Bonta, "The uses of the Sonata da Chiesa," Journal of the American Musicological Society 22 (1969): 54-84.

14 According to Jackson, Naples was the center of the Spanish inquisition in Italy, during and after the counter-reformation. For further details please consult Roland Jackson, "The Keyboard Music of Giovanni Maria Trabaci" (Unpublished Ph.D. diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1964), p.11.

15 According to Monroe, the most popular used copy of Fra Fasolo's Annuale today is the one by the Biblioteca del Conservatorio di Musica S. Pietro a Majella in Naples. However, other copies also exist. They are located, respectively, in the Biblioteca Communale in Assisi, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, the Bischöflische Proskebibliothek in Regensburg and the Minoriten Convent in Vienna. Please see p.16-17 of the Monroe thesis.

16 Please see p.77 of Bonta's article.

17 For further details, especially on the analysis of Lohet's fugues, please see Willi Apel, The History of Keyboard Music to 1700, translated by Hans Tischler, (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1972), p.202-203.

18 See Paul Nettl, "Die Bergamasca," Zeitschrift für Musikwissenscaft 5 (1922): 291.

19 See footnote 15.


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