Palestrina, Giovanni Perluigi Da
Palestrina, Giovanni Perluigi Da one of the most distinguished musical composers of the world, flourished in Italy in the 16th century. He derived his surname from the town of Palestrina, in the Roman states, where he was born in 1524 of very humble parentage. At the age of sixteen he went to Rome, and studied music under Claude Goudimel, afterwards one of the victims of the St. Bartholomew massacre. In 1551 Palestrina was made maestro di capella of the Julian Chapel, and in 1554 he published a collection of masses, so highly approved by pope Julius III, to whom they were dedicated, that he appointed their author one of the singers of the pontifical chapel. On the accession to the pontificate of Paul IV, in whose eyes celibacy was a necessary qualification for the duties of the higher appointments in the pontifical chapel, Palestrina was dismissed. For some time he felt severely his straitened circumstances, and not even the appointment as choir-master of St. Maria Maggiore brought much relief .to him. In 1571, however, his services to musical art were rewarded by his restoration to the office at St. Peter's. Up to the year 1560 Palestrina composed many works for the Church, among which Baini especially mentions those improvised, "so remarkable for depth of science and perfect adaptation of music to the sense of the word." In 1563, the Council of Trent having undertaken to reform the music of the Church, and condemned the profane words and music introduced into masses, some compositions by Palestrina were pointed to as models, and their author was intrusted with the task of remodeling this part of religious worship. He composed three masses on the reformed plan; one of them, known as the Mass of Pope Marcellus (to whose memory it is dedicated), may be considered to have saved, music to the Church by establishing a type infinitely beyond anything that had preceded it, and, amid all the improvements which music has since undergone, continues to be prized and admired. The number and quality of his productions during the remaining years of his life, are equally remarkable. His published works consist of thirteen books of Masses, six books of Motets, one book of Lamentations, one book of Hymns, one book of Offertories, one book of Magnificats, one book of Litanies, one book of Spiritual Madrigals, and three books of Madrigals. Equally estimable in private life, and talented as a musician, Palestrina struggled through a life of poverty during eight pontificates; his appointments for the most of his days of activity were meagre, and his publications unremunerative. He died in 1594. Palestrina's music is learned and grave;
and that written for the Church, when heard in the kind of place for which it is adapted, and attended by pomp and pageantry, is very impressive, and acts with irresistible force on sensitive minds. But in the concertroom or chamber his compositions, whether sacred or secular, have, with few exceptions, no charms for hearers who have not cultivated a taste for simple, solid, airless harmony, or for the intricacies of fugal points well woven with a skill that owes more to study than genius. Though Palestrina's compositions are not above criticism, it must be conceded that he ranks head and shoulders above all his predecessors and contemporaries, and must be considered the first musician who reconciled musical science with musical art; in short his works form a most important epoch in the history of music. His memoir has been written by the abbe Baini (1828) and by Winterfeld (1832).