Costanzo Porta

Costanzo Porta, was a composer, teacher and expert contrapuntist of the late musical Renaissance and associated with the Venetian School.

Around 1550, he is thought to have studied with “maestro di cappella” Adrian Willaert, at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice; the influence clearly lasting throughout his life.

Porta’s output is mostly sacred music, especially motets; as well as madrigals, intended for specific social occasions, such as weddings and large social events in the families of his employers.



Costanzo Porta – LIFE

Details of his early life are not well documented, but Constanzo Porta was born in Cremona between 1528 and 1529. He probably was educated at the Convent Porta San Luca, in Cremona.

(Note. Cremona  is a city and commune in northern Italy, situated in Lombardy, on the left bank of the Po river. It is the capital of the province of Cremona and the seat of the local city and province governments. The city is especially noted for its musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned luthiers; such as Giuseppe Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari, Francesco Rugeri, Vincenzo Rugeri and several members of the Amati family.)

Around 1550, he is thought to have studied with Adrian Willaert, who was maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  There he met Claudio Merulo, who was also a student and they remained close friends throughout their lives.

In 1552 Porta became maestro di cappella at Osimo Cathedral and in 1565 he briefly took a position in Padua. The following year, he took a more important position in Ravenna; where he was hired to build an entirely new music practice at the cathedral.

By 1580, his services were much in demand and there was competition for him; first declining an offer from Milan and moving instead between positions in several cities. Porta had developed a reputation as a renowned teacher by this time and numerous composers of the next generation, learned their contrapuntal skills from Porta.

His last years were spent in Padua and they were clearly difficult. Musical standards there began to decline and he faced in addition the burden of ill health and the jealousy of the man; who was eventually to replace him.

He died on the 19th May 1601, in Padua and is buried in the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua.



Most of Porta’s output is sacred music, especially motets. He published at least eight books of motets, one of which is unfortunately lost; as well as books of masses, introits and a huge cycle of hymns for Vespers.

Porta’s music is even more polyphonic than that of Gombert, and he showed a liking for academic, even severe contrapuntal devices; used with such skill, that the text can always be clearly understood.

Often his music uses strict canons.  One motet from his book of 52 motets in seven voices from 1580; has no less than four of the voices, entirely derived canonically. Another motet from this same book is a mensuration canon; that most difficult of all contrapuntal forms to carry off successfully. (Note.  A canon (Latin: law) is a piece of music where a melody is played and then imitated (one or more times) after a short delay. It is a contrapuntal technique as the melodic lines move independently from each other, but are linked harmonically.)

While many composers were reacting to the strictures of the Council of Trent against excessive polyphonic practice, Porta evidently felt not obliged to follow them – perhaps he had sufficient confidence in his skill in conveying the text. His music is as carefully controlled as that of Palestrina, with cautious use of dissonance and chromaticism. It displayed polyphonic virtuosity, to a degree uncommon in other composers of sacred music; at the end of the 16th century. Some of the later motets, use polychoral writing extensively.


Although Porta was not in Venice in the late part of the century, where the polychoral style had developed and become famous; he had spent years there as a student studying with Adrian Willaert and the influence clearly lasted throughout his life. He had no doubt remained familiar with current practice in Venice and adopted some of the innovations; that worked best with his highly learned style.

Costanzo Porta also wrote madrigals and many of these were clearly intended for specific occasions; such as weddings and large social events in the families of his employers. They are in a much simpler style than his sacred works; much in keeping with contemporary practice.
















Major members of the Venetian School of Music. 

Adrian Willaert (c.1490-1562) 

Jacques Buus (c.1500-1565)

Andrea Gabrieli (c.1532-1585)

Nicola Vicentino (1511-c.1576)

Cipriano de Rore (c.1515-1565)

Gioseffo Zarlino (1517–1590)

Baldassare Donato (1525–1603)

Annibale Padovano (1527–1575)

Claudio Merulo (1533–1604)

Gioseffo Guami (c.1540-1611)

Vincenzo Bellavere (d.1587)

Girolamo Diruta (c.1554-after 1610)

Girolamo Dalla Casa (d.1601)

Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1555-1612)

Giovanni Croce (c.1557-1609)

Giovanni Bassano (c.1558-1617)

Giulio Cesare Martinengo (c.1561-1613)

Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)


Other posts in the category of Art-Music-Literature

Costanzo Porta: Musicalics – The Classical Composers Data Base


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