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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 – 2 February 1594)[1] was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition.[2] He had a long-lasting influence on the development of church and secular music in Europe, especially on the development of counterpoint, and his work is considered the culmination of Renaissance polyphony.[2]

Biography

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 February 3. 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, Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. He 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]

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,[4] (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.

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 c. 1525 – 2 February 1594)[1] was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition.[2] He had a long-lasting influence on the development of church and secular music in Europe, especially on the development of counterpoint, and his work is considered the culmination of Renaissance polyphony.[2]