(b Villafranca Sabauda, Piedmont, c1490–95; d Rome, 31 July 1524). Italian composer, perhaps related to Costanzo Festa. He may have received his early training in Turin, where his father Jacobinus resided in the 1520s. The first page of I-Bc Q19 has the inscription ‘1518 / a di 10 di zugno / seb. festa’ above a motet, Angele Dei, presumably by Festa (the manuscript contains two other motets by him as well as several by Costanzo Festa). The manuscript is thought to have been compiled in north-east Italy c1516–19; the extent to which Sebastiano Festa was involved with, or even copied, the entire manuscript (the first pages are an addition, preceding the index) remains a matter for speculation. Festa was active in Rome, in a circle of musicians connected with the papal court of Leo X (d 1521). In 1520 he was in the employ of Ottobono Fieschi, a young Genoese noble who was bishop of Mondovì, near Turin, who lived in Rome as protonotary for Leo X; in the same year Festa was given a canonicate at Turin Cathedral.
Festa's small output (four motets and about a dozen madrigals) suggests that he died young. He is nonetheless important as one of the earliest cultivators of the nascent madrigal, along with Carpentras and Pisano, both in Leo X's chapel; Costanzo Festa, also a member of this chapel, and Verdelot (in Rome c1520) must have known his work. His Italian pieces are written in a very simple texture of chordal declamation varied only by an occasional pre-cadential melisma. One or two show hints of frottola rhythms but on the whole the patterns are derived from the French chanson of the period. These madrigals were well known in Florence, copied into manuscripts such as I-Fn Magl.164–7 and US-NH 179 in the 1520s; during that decade Roman printers published most of them.
One piece in particular, O passi sparsi, setting a Petrarch sonnet in an unassuming and schematic way, appears in many manuscripts: in the Libro primo de la croce (RISM 15266, a reprint of a lost earlier edition), in an Attaingnant print of 1533 (Claudin de Sermisy wrote a mass based on it) and in many later 16th-century prints where it is, alas, attributed to Costanzo Festa. It was also a favourite among instrumental intabulators.
Edition: Libro primo de la croce (Rome: Pasoti and Dorico, 1526): canzoni, frottole et capitoli, ed. W.F. Prizer (Madison, WI, 1978) [P]
Angele Dei (dated 10 June 1518), I-Bc Q19, ed. K. Jeppesen, Italia sacra musica, ii (Copenhagen, 1962)