Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

The Italian composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (probably 1525-1595) is the epitome of strict counterpoint, or more precisely of Catholic church music written in counterpoint on the threshold of modern major-minor tonality. Like no other, his compositional style focuses on balance, equilibrium and symmetry. Here, no interval leap is encountered that is not subsequently filled, no voice remains without counterweight, no dissonance without resolution. The resulting rigour of this style has made it an ideal model for teaching composition, and so generations of composers have learned to write in the Palestrina style, taught through various textbooks.

Palestrina received his musical training at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, and in 1544, he took over responsibility for the music at the main church of his birthplace, Palestrina, in the outskirts of Rome. But he was soon given larger responsibilities in Rome itself. In 1555, Palestrina was briefly a singer in the Sistine Chapel, then took charge of church music at various important Roman churches until finally returning to St Peter’s for good in 1571. Palestrina’s extensive oeuvre comprises almost exclusively sacred music and, with its goals of simplicity, textual comprehensibility and sublimity, exemplifies the aims of the Counter-Reformation.

As of September 2021

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