Palestrina

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c.1525-1594), Italian composer, is considered, with Lassus and Byrd, the greatest composer of his time of unaccompanied choral music and one of the greatest Renaissance composers generally.

He sang in the local cathedral choir from about 12 and became organist and choirmaster there when 18. He was fortunate when his bishop became Pope and he moved to the Vatican where he was to hold senior musical positions and make a name for himself throughout Europe with works, (mostly sacred, but he has a place in the development of the madrigal) that are recognised as being at the pinnacle of the unaccompanied polyphonic style. After him, we see the emergence of accompanied masses and Passions and the rise of the oratorio and cantata that would peak with J. S. Bach and Handel.

He was a devout and devoted child of the Counter-Reformation. He was the first Italian to be allowed to dedicate a book of masses to the Pope (an honour normally given to the composers of the Flanders school) and what is considered his greatest mass, “Missa Papae Marcellus,” is seen as an attempt to bring the mass into line with the guiding principles of the then meeting Council of Trent.

His music is much recorded and frequently performed in Christian places of worship throughout the world.

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