Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (Palestrina or Rome, 1525, latest February 1, 1526 - Rome, February 2, 1594) was an Italian composer of Renaissance music.

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(Public domain image from Pratt's History of Music, 1907 full size image)

He was nicknamed Il Prenestino. He has had a tremendous influence on the development of Roman Catholic church music.

He went to Rome at the age of fourteen to sixteen and is supposed to have studied under Claude Goudimel. In 1544-51 he was organist of the principal church of his native city, and in the latter year became magister puerorum at St. Peter's, Rome. By his first compositions-- three masses dedicated to Julius III.-- he made so favorable an impression that he was appointed musical director of the Julian chapel. He held similar positions at various chapels and churches in Rome until his death; and by his compositions, which are very numerous-- masses, motets, hymns, and others, of which only one-half have been published-- he produced a complete revolution in the history of church music. As his masterpiece is generally mentioned, Missa Papae Marcelli.

Palestrina left hundreds of compositions, including 104 masses, 68 offertories, 250 motets, 45 hymns, psalms, 33 magnificats, lithanies, 4 or 5 sets of lamentations etc., at least 140 madrigals and 9 organ ricercari. His compositions are typified as very clear, with voice parts well-balanced and beautifully harmonized.

Much study and research has been done on his music. Most notable include:

Jeppesen, Knud. The Style of Palestrina and the Dissonance. 2nd ed., London, 1946. (An exhaustive study of his contrapuntal technique.)

_______. Counterpoint. New York, 1939.

Haigh, Andrew C. Modal Harmony in the Music of Palestrina. From Essays on Music: In Honor of Archibald Thompson Davison. Harvard, 1957. pp.111-120.