Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da

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Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da

Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da (jōvänˈnē pyārlo͞oēˈjē päˌlāstrēˈnä), c.1525–1594, Italian composer whose family name was Pierluigi; b. Palestrina, from which he took his name. Palestrina represents with Lasso the culmination of Renaissance music. In 1544 he was appointed organist at the cathedral in his native town. In 1550 the bishop of Palestrina became Pope Julius III and appointed (1551) Palestrina master of the Julian Chapel Choir. Palestrina's first book of masses appeared in 1554, dedicated to the pope. From 1555 to 1560 he was choirmaster of the Cathedral of St. John Lateran, for which he wrote his Lamentations, and from 1561 to 1566 he was choirmaster of Saint Mary Major. After several years in the private service of Ippolito II, Cardinal d'Este, he returned in 1571 to the Vatican to resume leadership of the Julian Chapel Choir. He was undisputed master of the mass, of which he wrote 105 for four, five, six, and eight voice parts. Best known is his Missa Papae Marcelli. He also wrote madrigals, motets, magnificats, offertories, litanies, and settings of the Song of Songs.


See biographies by E. M. King (1965), T. C. Day (1969), and J. Roche (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi Da


(Palestrina). Born circa 1525 in Palestrina, near Rome; died Feb. 2, 1594, in Rome. Italian composer; head of the Roman school of polyphony.

From 1544 to 1551, Palestrina was organist and choirmaster at the principal church in the town of Palestrina. In 1551 he came to Rome, where he held positions in the pontifical choir, the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, and the Sistine Chapel. Most of his creative work is religious a capella music. He created striking examples of a transparent polyphony that does not obscure the text. His music is distinguished for a balance between polyphonic and harmonic principles, as well as for a tranquil euphony. Dramatic effects and sharp contrasts, which are typical of works by many of his contemporaries, are alien to his art, which is serene and reflective.

Palestrina achieved a new, clearer, more flowing expressiveness in polyphonic music. He transformed vocal polyphony, revealing its harmonic possibilities. For this reason, like other composers of his time, Palestrina is considered a forerunner of the stylistic revolution of the turn of the 17th century. He wrote more than 100 masses and approximately 180 motets, as well as hymns, magnificats, and spiritual and secular madrigals.


Werke, vols. 1–33. Leipzig, 1862–1903.
Le opere complete, vols. 1–29. Rome, 1939–62. (Publication in progress.)


Ivanov-Boretskii, M. V. Palestrina. Moscow, 1909.
Ferracci, E. II Palestrina. Rome, 1960.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.