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Giovanni Matteo Asola
c.1528 - 1609
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G.M. Asola
Giovanni Matteo Asola (c.1528 - 01/10/1609), an Italian composer (born in Verona). He composed three settings of the requiem mass.
Source:http://www.cipoo.net and The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians
Missa pro defunctis
Period:High Renaissance
Composed in:1574
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
This mass in plainsong melody is for TTBB choir (4 voices equal). The polyphonic treatment illustrated by Asola and Pitoni's requiems is traced in Liszt's Totentanz.
Author:Joseph Yasser
Source:"Dies Irae: the famous Medieval chant." In: Musical Courier (6 October 1927)
This Missa pro defunctis contains:
- Introitus: Requiem aeternam.
- Kyrie: Kyrie Christe Kyrie.
- Gradual: Requiem aeternam.
- Tractus: Absolve Domine.
- Sequentia: Dies Irae.
- Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe.
- Sanctus: Sanctus & Hosanna.
- Benedictus: Benedictus & Hosanna.
- Agnus Dei: Agnus Dei I, II, III.
- Communio: Lux aeterna.

Asola is a representative of the Roman/Italian school like: Palestrina (1525-1594), Anerio (1560-1571), Vecchi (c.1550-1604). He was a pupil of Vincenzo Ruffo (1510-1587).
Of course in this small Missa pro Defunctis, in the title we saw Messa pro Defunctis, probably written in 1574, Asola made use of the plainchant in a short variety of forms. But there is by this Asola already other treatment of the text due to the Council of Trent as we normally saw, the style is close to the late works by Palestrina (1525-1594). Contrary to his Netherlands colleagues sizable proportions are written in homophonic style or even chordal style or very sober polyphonic style. Most of the movements in this Missa pro Defunctis are written for four male/equal voices, some The Gradual and Tractus for three equal voices (TTB & TTTB).
In the first movement the Requiem aeternam, Asola quotes parts of the Gregorian Plainchant in an uni sono way, and this movement contains 53 bars.
A smaller part - the first part of this Requiem - is written in a modest polyphonically way. This part of the Requiem finishes with a firm homophonic part in: “et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalam up to caro veniet”. Here you see already clearly the change in technique compared to the brilliant polyphonic style of his Netherlands colleagues. Imitation, independent rhythms, almost all contrapuntal devices have been nearly stripped away. Asola helps himself all through this Mass with homophonic and canonic passages, larded with brief sections of non-imitative texture.
The clear presentation of the text governs all through this Missa pro Defunctis and is characteristic of a certain end 16th century Mass-style.
The Kyrie contains 38 bars and is written in a modest polyphonic style and starts in a canonic form. The Christe and last Kyrië start briefly homophonic and changes into polyphonic manner up to the end. The Gradual in this case is used the text Requiem aeternam and not the Si Ambulem and is set for three equal voices TTB, contains 27 bars and is written in homophonic style. The same applies for the Tractus, Absolve Dominum set either for three equal voices TTB and contains 35 bars.
The Gradual and Tractus are since 1570 official part of the office of the Dead.
The Sequence, Dies irae is used by Asola like for instance Jacobus de Kerle (1531-1591 ) did in following the orders and the concluded implementation of the Dies Irae in the Office of the Dead by the Council of Trent. The Dies irae contains 149 bars and is written for alternating use uni sono and TTBB. The strophe with the odd numbers will be performed uni sono with the Plainchant. The straight numbers will be sung by several varied voices TTBB.
In “Ingemisco tanquam reus, Culpa rubet vultus meus;Supplicanti parce, Deus; translattion: I groan as one guilty, my face blushes with guilt; spare the suppliant, O God”, Asola follows the text in severe full homophonic style so he did the opposite in Confutatis maledictus now in a very delicate and gracious fluent polyphonic style.
In the phrase Pie Jesu, Asola uses long notes to accentuate the merciful Jesu! and is set following a conclusion ending with Amen in great E major.
The Offertorium is set for four equal voices TTBB, contains 99 bars and Asola quotes parts of the Gregorian Plainchant. The Offertorium is – due to the dramatic text - written in such an equal style in using a lot of sharps and flats. The first part has a modest polyphonic style; from “tu suscipe pro animabus” Asola uses a vast homophonic style. Asola omitted in this offertorium the normally used last sentence “Quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus”.
The Sanctus and Benedictus are very short respectively 26 and 17 bars and are based on modest polyphonic style with some independent rhythms and polyphonic movements in the beginning of the Sanctus/ Benedictus and Hosanna. Contrary to that the Pleni sunt coeli is homophonic ending with a short polyphonic Hosanna. The Sanctus starts with a short plainchant phrase.

The Agnus Dei I, II, III - 35 bars - start in each with a plainchant phrase, followed by homophonic style with some independent rhythm, nevertheless each dona eis requiem has polyphonic style.
In the Communio: Lux aeterna, Asola alternates in 45 bars with the plainchant uni sono followed by modest interesting polyphonic movements for TTBB. The Et Lux perpetua is vast homophonic ending up in a fluent polyphonic style. This Missa pro defunctis is published in Venice in 1574 Venetia : appresso li figliuoli di Antonio Gardano, 1574 and in 1576 by Gardano, Venezia, Missa pro defunctis aquattro voce pari (1576) and in nel 2.° libro delle messe a 4 voci pari.Ven. 1580.
Of course all the Missa pro Defunctis composed in the Renaissance period we saw are works written with deep devotion and painful hope, but in music terms they seems unbeatable most impressive. Nevertheless contrary to that Asola was really a prolific composer of sacred music, but mostly in a conservative style.
Author:Wim Goossens
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score in full size.
Messa per i morti
Period:High Renaissance
Composed in:1585
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Messa per i morti for four voices.
Officium defunctorum
Period:High Renaissance
Composed in:1586
Musical form:officium
No details available.
Period:High Renaissance
Composed in:1599c
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
No details available.
Si bona suscepimus
Period:Late Renaissance
Composed in:1600
Musical form:Motet a 8 vocibus
Text/libretto:Latin from a Responsorium de Officium Defunctorum
This Si bona suscepimus is an old Responsorium. There are about 138 Responsoria de Officium Defunctorum Responds from Office of the Dead known and used during centuries in the Office of the Dead. They are all well ordered, this is number 87. One of the two corresponding Versicle from the Office of the Dead “ Nudus egressus” number 156 is even used among others by Jacobus Clement (1515-1556), Gombert (c.1495-c.1557), Jacquet de Mantua (1483-1559), Lassus (1532-1594), Lechner (1553-1606), Ivo de Vento (c.1544-1575), Gioseffo Zarlino (c.1517-1590), Thomas Verdelot (c.1475-1552) and Thomas Selle (1599-1663). The other belonging Versicle is number 307 “Gloria Patri”. On the other hand Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) and Claudin de Sermisy (1490-1562) used only the Respond version without the Versicle-part so did Constanzo Porta (1529-1601) as we will see. Another third version is seen with the Versicle “In omnibus” Job Chapter 1, Vers 22 and is even produced in very old sources. And finally there is a fourth version with the Versicle “Testa saniem radebat Job.” It is known the use of Responds and Versicles of The Office of the Dead vary per region all over Europe. This particularly Respond is used and found in the series of Deventer Holland and preserved in the University of Amsterdam. And the more general type (Respond-Type 25) to which this Respond belongs is spread in the area under the Ottonian and Salian emperors the counties of Lower Lorraine, of Flanders, Champagne and the northern part of Holland. In general the text is coming out of the Book Job, chapter 1 verse 21 and chapter 2 verse 10. The choice of texts especially the use of the Versicle and the order in which they occur in the sources all around Europe vary according to local uses. This text setting is found in Deventer in a source out of 1516 and this Respond is sung at the end of the third nocturne.
This Respond - consisting out of 65 measures - is set by Giovanni Matteo Asola for two lower choirs (ATTB x ATTB). Asola admired the coro spezzati style, spatially separated groups of singers, from the Venetian composers developed by the Netherlandish composers. According to normal Plainchant practises the last sentence of the Respond in this case as from “ Dominus dedit ..” will be repeated. So did Asola in his setting.
Choir I starts with imitative lively polyphonic pieces (Bass, TI, T II and Alt) in Italian style. Choir II answers with same polyphonic motives. The choirs exchange each other’s in polyphonic and in homophonic phrases – answering each other - culminating the two choirs together in a polyphonic understatement “sit nomen Domine benedictum”. In measure 38 starts the Versicle “Nudus egressus sum” in a more modestly manner. As from measure 50 the repeat of the proscribed part of the Respond “Dominus dedit…” with two choirs starts in a same way and same score as we saw before (from measure 22). Asola mixes up in this motet the style of Roman school (Palestrina 1525-1594) with the Venetian school. That means imitative contrapuntal style balanced by brief homophonic sections but in this setting in coro spezzati style. This motet is set in A-Phrygian mode.
This motet is published in Sacrosanctae Dei laudes octonis vocibus infractis decantandae,Venezia, Amadino,1600.
Author:Wim Goossens
Text Si bona suscepimus:
Si bona suscepimus de manu domine, mala autem quare non sustineamus?
Dominus dedit dominus abstulit sicut domino placuit ita factum est. Sit nomen domini benedictum.
V. Nudus egressus sum de utero matris meae, nudus revertar illuc.
R. Dominus dedit dominus abstulit sicut domino placuit ita factum est. Sit nomen domini benedictum.

R. If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not endure evil?
The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away: as it has pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
V. Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.
R.The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away: as it has pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Contributor:Wim Goossens