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Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina

1525 - 1594
Born in Italy

Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina is known as the leading Italian composer of church music during the 16th century. Known particularly for his masses and motets, he became a model for later composers when writing sacred music. His music education began early on as a choirboy in Rome. He later went on to work at various churches as a choirmaster.

During Palestrina’s lifetime, the Council of Trent met to discuss a response to the Reformation. Legend says that Palestrina saved polyphony (music with more than one voice part of equal importance) from condemnation by the church council when he composed his Pope Marcellus Mass. The council had been concerned about the lack of clarity in polyphonic texts. The Pope Marcellus Mass was a beautiful work that displayed the words in an intelligible manner. Whether this legend is true or not, we do not know. What we do know, however, is that the Council of Trent ordered changes to the liturgy and Palestrina was one of the men assigned to revising old chant books.

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