Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluiggi da

Date of birth: c.1525

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina - also called Johannes Petraloysius Prænestinus or names that are a mixture of these - is one of the most important Italian composers of the Renaissance. He was born about 1525 in Palestrina, a town near Rome in the province of Preneste, hence the name Prænestinus. He is recorded as a choir boy in The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome in 1537. He became organist and maestro di capella in the Palestrina Cathedral. In 1551 he became maestro in St. Peter’s and singer in the Sistine Chapel. In 1554 he published the first book with masses. He was dismissed by Pope Paul IV in 1555 because he was not a priest. Only a month later he became maestro in St. John’s of Latherans in Rome. He stayed on this post until 1560. In 1555 his first book of madrigals appeared. From 1561 to 1566 he was maestro in the Santa Maria Maggiore. From 1567 to 1571 was in the service of Duke Ippolito II d’Este in Ferrara, and after that he was maestro in St. Peter’s until his death in 1594. He was buried inside St. Peter’s.
Palestrina was extremely prolific, having written over 100 masses, nearly 400 motets, 35 Magnificats, 7 litanies, furthermore dozens of songs, hymns, psalm settings, 200 madrigals. He wrote instrumental music as well: 9 organ ricercari. Of course he is most renown for his religious music. His compositions have a clear melodic structure and a balanced harmony in the vocal lines. Most of Palestrina’s work was published after his death. In the second half of the 19th century a complete edition of his work appeared at Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig.
Cees Wagemakers, 2018