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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Short Name: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Full Name: Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da, 1525?-1594
Birth Year (est.): 1525
Death Year: 1594

Giovanni Pierluigi (da Palestrina) Italy 1525-1594. Born at Palestrina, Italy, near Rome, then part of the Papal States to Neopolitan parents. As a youth he became a chorister at the Santa Maria Maggiore basilica in the Rome Diocese. This allowed him to learn literature and music. In 1540 he moved to Rome, where he studied in the school ofr the Hugenot, Claude Goudimel. He also studied with Robin Mallapert and Firmin Lebel. Orlando Di Lasso was also a musical advisor to him. From 1544-1551 he was organist at the Cathedral of St Agapito, the principle church of his native city. In 1547 he married Lucrezia Gori, and they had four children: Rodolfo, Angelo, Iginio, and a daughter. In 1551 Pope Julius III (previously Bishop of Palestrina) appointed him ‘maestro di cappella’, or musical director of the Cappella Giulia (choir). Pierluigi dedicated his first published compositions to Pope Julius III (1554), known as ‘the book of Masses’. It was the first book of masses by a native composer, since most sacred works in those days were from low countries (France or Spain). In 1555 Pope Paul IV ordered that all papal choristers should be clerical. As Pierluigi married early in life and had four children, he was unable to continue in the chapel as a layman. During the next decade he held positions similar to his Julian Chapel appointment at other chapels and churches in Rome, including St John Lateran (1555-1560), and Santa Maria Maggiore (1561-1566). In 1571 he returned to the Julian Chapel and remained at St Peter’s for the rest of his life. The 1570s was a decade of difficulty for him, as he lost his brother, two sons, and his wife in three separate outbreaks of plague (1572-1575-1580). In 1578 he was given the title of ‘Master of Music’ at the Vatican Basilica. He thought of becoming a priest at this time, but instead married a wealthy widow, Virginia Formoli, in 1581, widow of a wealthy merchant, which gave him financial independence (he was not well-paid as choirmaster). He spent considerable time administering to her fortune, but also was able to compose prolifically until his death. He also helped to found an association of professional musicians called the Vertuosa Compagnia dei Musici. He died in Rome of pleurisy. He left hundreds of compositions, including 1045 masses, 68 offertories, 140 madrigals, 300+ motets, 72 hymns, 35 magnificats, 11 litanies and several sets of lamentations. There are two comprehensive editions of his works: a 33-volume edition published by Breitkopf and Hartel, in Leigzig, Germany, between 1862-1894, edited by Franz Xaver Habert, and a 34-volume edition published in the mid 20th century by Fratelli Scalera, in Rome, Italy, edited by R Casimiri and others. As a Renaissance musician and composer of sacred music he was the best known 16th century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He had a long-lasting influence on the development of church and secular music in Europe, especially on the development of counterpoint, his work considered the culmination of Renaissance polyphony. Very famous in his day, he was considered by some the legendary ‘savior of church music’. A 2009 film was produced by German television about him, titled: ‘Palestrina – Prince of Music’.

John Perry

Wikipedia Biography

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 – 2 February 1594) was an Italian composer of late Renaissance music. The central representative of the Roman School, with Orlande de Lassus and Tomás Luis de Victoria, Palestrina is considered the leading composer of late 16th-century Europe.

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