Concerti ecclesiastici

Giovanni Paolo Cima, 1610

The city and duchy of Milan passed into Hapsburg hands in 1525, following the humiliating defeat of the French at the Battle of Pavia. Like its southern counterpart Naples, Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Milan
Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Milan
(Wikimedia Commons)
also won from the French a couple of decades earlier, it came under the purview of Phillip II of Spain when Charles V abdicated in 1566.

Among Milan’s many churches is Santa Maria presso San Celso, where most of the career of Giovanni Paolo Cima unfolded. His family seems to have been a well–known musical one, and he received a good general education, becoming organist 1595. Curiously, he carried out the duties of maestro di capella between 1607 and 1611, then again between 1614 and 1630, despite never having been officially named to the post. It was toward the end of his first such term that he published his Concerti ecclesiastici a una, due, tre, quattro voci con doi a cinque, et uno a otto (“Church concertos for one, two, three and four voices, with one for five, and one for eight”). Ironically, his sei sonate per strumenti are more well known than the almost fifty concertos.

The eleventh number is scored for two sopranos in ecco (“in echo”), the words taken from the Song of Songs 2:13 – 14. Supported by a simple continuo bass, the second voice echoes portions of the first particularly at cadences. The structure of the work begs to have the two performers stationed in different parts of the church.

Surge propera amica mea

Arise my love

speciosa mea et veni

my beauty and come

columba mea in foraminibus petrae

my dove in rock clefts

in caverna maceriae

in niches of the wall

ostende mihi faciem tuam

turn your face toward me

sonet vox tua in auribus meis

sound your voice in my ears

vox enim tua dulci

your voice is sweet

et facies tua decora

and your face is lovely



The five–voice motet Ornaverunt faciem templi is taken from Maccabees 4:57 – 58. It is particularly brief for a work of five voices and, in keeping with the concertato idea, any or all of the inner voices could quite easily be taken by an instrument. There are strands of imitation in the opening ornaverunt faciem templi coronis aureis ... (“They adorned the face of the temple with golden crowns ...”), while the answering et facta est laetitia magna in populo (“And there was great joy among the people”) is more homophonic in texture and is sung in triple time. The closing Alleluia returns to quadruple time and more imitative figures.



Also included in Cima’s collection were a mass for four voices comprising quite short movements, and two Magnificats, both of which feature falsobordone passages.

Cima, Falsobordone

Following these were six sonatas for instruments alone, which could be used during mass. Nowadays, Cima is known mainly as an instrumental composer largely on the basis of these sonatas, despite spending so much of his time working with singers. Indeed, the closing pages of the collection of concertos are falsobordone formulas for the eight psalm tones.

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