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

He was nicknamed Il Prenestino. He 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 (St. Agapito, Palestrina), and in the latter year became maestro di cappella at Cappella Giulia in Rome. By his first compositions -- three masses dedicated to Pope Julius III (previously the Bishop of Palestrina) -- 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 (notably St. John Lateran (1555-60) and St. Maria Maggiore (1561-6)); 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, altering the existing chants in line with the recommendations of the Council of Trent. 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. Notably:

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 the festschrift Essays on Music: In Honor of Archibald Thompson Davison. Harvard, 1957. pp.111-120.




  • Palestrina: Missa Dum complerentur, Veni Sancte Spiritus and Other Music for Whitsuntide
    from Hyperion.

  • Palestrina
    from Opera D'Oro.

  • Agnus Dei: Music of Inner Harmony
    from Elektra/Asylum.
    Some of it's secular, much of it's sacred, but Erato's recording, spanning over 300 years of some of the most harmonious and beautiful pieces of vocal music ever written, has something for almost everyone who appreciates classical music.

    Not only are the performances well-performed, but they...

  • The Best of the Renaissance
    from Polygram Records.
    This CD contains, to my knowledge, the best recorded performance of the sublime Miserere by Gregorio Allegri. There is a famous story of Mozart going to the Sistine Chapel to hear the Allegri Miserere when he was fourteen years old. After having heard it, he asked to see the score and was denied...

  • Mass: The Most Powerful, Uplifting & Passionate Music You Will Ever Hear
    from Elektra/Asylum.
    What I would underline in the other, very keen review - which convinced me to buy it, myself - is that this is one-of-a-kind. There's not that provincial, self-serving-label feel to this; nor did they just drag up back catalog in order to sell a disk or two. The 2 CDs work as a whole, with a felt...

  • Allegri: Miserere; Palestrina / Willcocks, Kings College Choir
    from Polygram Records.
    There are many different versions/recordings of the Allegri available depending on the manuscript source and the embellishment/performance practise employed. The English version recorded here with the high leaps is certainly the most famous however. I have often wondered why Allegri wrote little...

  • Great Choral Classics from King's College
    from Polygram Records.

  • Magnificat
    from Atlantic.
    This is one of my first two DVD-audio discs. Some tracks are recorded from the audience perspective, with the choir across the front and cathedral ambience all around, and those are beautiful, but I gotta say I love the, "choir-around the room" recordings a little more. Track 3 in particular has the...

  • The Greatest Choral Music of Palestrina: Prince of Music
    from Delos Records.
    Folks, I'm a long-time fan of the Ascension Choir, but Palestrina has always been at the top of my list of "Most Overrated Composers of All Time" (along with the 20th-Century's greatest ..., Igor Stravinsky) - until I broke down & bought Dennis Keene's exquisitely prepared "Prince of Music" CD....

  • Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli, Missa Aeterna
    from Naxos.
    This disc might actually make a good Palestrina sampler, of sorts - at least a good sampler of his masses. The Pope Marcellus Mass is probably his best known mass, and both this mass and the Missa Aeterna Christi Munera are models of elegance and serenity. The latter piece is not recorded very...

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