Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

c. 1525 – 1594

About Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

From Wikipedia: Palestrina was born in the town of Palestrina,[3] near Rome, then part of the Papal States to Neapolitan parents, Santo and Palma Pierluigi, in 1525, possibly on 3 February. His mother died on 16 January 1536, when Palestrina was 10. Documents suggest that he first visited Rome in 1537, when he was listed as a chorister at the Santa Maria Maggiore basilica, one of the papal basilicas of the Diocese of Rome, which allowed him to learn literature and music.[4] In 1540, he moved to Rome, where he studied in the school of the Huguenot Claude Goudimel.[4] He also studied with Robin Mallapert and Firmin Lebel. He spent most of his career in the city.

Palestrina came of age as a musician under the influence of the northern European style of polyphony, which owed its dominance in Italy primarily to two influential Netherlandish composers, Guillaume Dufay and Josquin des Prez, who had spent significant portions of their careers there. Italy itself had yet to produce anyone of comparable fame or skill in polyphony.[2] Orlando di Lasso , who accompanied Palestrina in his early years, also played an important role in the formation of his style as an adviser.[4]

From 1544 to 1551, Palestrina was the organist of the Cathedral of St. Agapito, the principal church of his native city. In 1551 Pope Julius III (previously the Bishop of Palestrina) appointed Palestrina maestro di cappella or musical director of the Cappella Giulia,[5] (Julian Chapel, in the sense of choir), the choir of the chapter of canons at St. Peter's Basilica. Palestrina dedicated to Julius III his first published compositions (1554), a book of Masses. It was the first book of Masses by a native composer, since in the Italian states of Palestrina's day, most composers of sacred music were from the Low Countries, France, or Spain.[citation needed] In fact the book was modelled on one by Cristóbal de Morales: the woodcut in the front is almost an exact copy of the one from the book by the Spanish composer.

In 1555, Pope Paul IV ordered that all papal choristers should be clerical. As Palestrina married early in life and had four children, he was unable to continue in the chapel as a layman.[4]

Facade of St John Lateran, Rome, where Palestrina was musical director
During the next decade, Palestrina held positions similar to his Julian Chapel appointment at other chapels and churches in Rome, notably St. John Lateran (1555–1560, a post previously held by Lassus), 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 decade of the 1570s was difficult for him personally: he lost his brother, two of his sons, and his wife in three separate outbreaks of the plague (1572, 1575, and 1580, respectively). He seems to have considered becoming a priest at this time, but instead he remarried, this time to a wealthy widow. This finally gave him financial independence (he was not well paid as choirmaster) and he was able to compose prolifically until his death.

He died in Rome of pleurisy on 2 February 1594. It is said that Palestrina died only one day before his 69th birthday. As was usual, Palestrina was buried on the same day he died, in a plain coffin with a lead plate on which was inscribed Libera me Domine. A five-part psalm for three choirs was sung at the funeral.[6] Palestrina's funeral was held at St. Peter's, and he was buried beneath the floor of the basilica. His tomb was later covered by new construction and attempts to locate the site have been unsuccessful.

Italian composers Giovanni Maria Nanino and Gregorio Allegri, both of them disciples of his school, continued his works.[4]

Playalong Pieces

Title Instrumentation
Ricercar del Secondo Tuono 4 recorders
Ricercar del Primo Tuono 4 recorders