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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

(c. 1525—1594) Italian composer

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(b Palestrina, nr. Rome, c.1525; d Rome, 1594).

It. composer who took his name from his birthplace. Chorister at S. Maria Maggiore, Rome, in 1537. Studied in Rome c.1540. Organist and choirmaster, Palestrina, 1544. In 1550 the Bishop became Pope Julius III and in 1551 summoned Palestrina to Rome as choirmaster of Cappella Giulia, a nursery for Sistine Choir. The following year Palestrina published his first book of Masses. In 1555 a new Pope, Paul IV, dismissed Palestrina and two others from the Sistine Choir because they were married. Palestrina was appointed choirmaster of St John Lateran in 1555 in succession to Lassus. For this church he wrote his Lamentations. He resigned in 1560 over dissatisfaction with the way the choirboys were fed, becoming choirmaster of S. Maria Maggiore in 1561. He pubd. his first book of motets 2 years later. In 1567 he resigned to enter service of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, having become dissatisfied with the papal reforms of church mus. which rendered 2 of his masses unliturgical because they contained words foreign to the mass. In addition, others of his masses incl. secular songs, such as L'Homme armé. The cardinal kept a mus. establishment at his palace in Tivoli (the Villa d'Este). In 1571 Palestrina became dir. of the Cappella Giulia. Over the next few years he lost both his sons and his wife through epidemics and decided to become a priest. But after a few weeks he changed his mind and married again, his new wife being the rich widow of a fur merchant. Palestrina formed a partnership with one of the men in the business and made a fortune which enabled him in the last 13 years of his life to publish 16 colls. of his mus.

Palestrina's mus. is marked by flowing, smooth lines and a rich beauty of sound in the way vv. are blended. He had neither the range nor the inventiveness of Byrd and Lassus, but the skill with which his sacred works are based on the secular madrigal gives his mus. special characteristics which are greatly admired. His works incl.:


4 for 8 vv.; 22 for 6 vv. (incl. Missa Papae Marcelli and Hexachord Mass); 39 for 4 vv. (incl. Missa brevis, 1570); 29 for 5 vv. (incl. L'Homme armé).


6 for 12 vv. (incl. Stabat Mater); 56 for 8 vv.; 2 for 7 vv.; 34 for 6 vv.; 79 for 5 vv.; 67 for 4 vv.; 29 settings for 4 vv. from the Song of Solomon.

cantiones sacrae:

2 for 8 vv.; 4 for 4 vv.


35 on the 8 tones.

other works:

Hymns for 4 vv.; Offertories for 5 vv.; Lamentations for 4 vv.; Psalms for 12 vv.; Litanies; Antiphon; Sacred Madrigals for 5, 4, and 3 vv.; Secular Madrigals.

Subjects: Music

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