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Palestrina

Renaissance_16th c


16th century. Music in Italy


Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)

He  is the best known representative of the school of Rome in the 16th century. He had a very strong influence to the development of church music and his  music is often viewed as the apotheosis of Renaissance polyphony.
He was born in Palestrina, a town close to Rome. In 1537  he visited Rome for  first time. A great part  of his career was spent there. He was influenced by northern European polyphony that prevailed in Italy  during that era. More specifically he was influenced by Guillaume Dufay and Josquin des Pres.
He composed hundreds of works, including 105 liturgies, madrigals 140 and over 300 motets. These liturgies illustrate the evolution of his style.  Most of them were  published between 1554-1601. J.S Bach  studied  "Missa sine nomine" score when he was composing his own liturgy in B minor.
One of his most important works, missa Papae Marcelli, score, was believed by historians that it had been composed  in order to convince the council of Trent that the prohibition of polyphonic church music (and a shift towards more comprehensive homophonic music ) was not necessary  (see also: counter-reformation).  But recent research suggests that the liturgy had been written before convening the cardinals, perhaps 10 years earlier. Historical data also show that the Trent  council did  not prohibite any religious music and did not take any decision or say something relevant to the subject, at least officially. So, although it is not known today what motivated him to compose his missa Papae Marcelli, it seems that he had fully understood the need of a comprehensive text and music. However, he did not  compose this work  to adapt the principles of a doctrine of counter-reform. His musical character of  style remained stable from the early 1560's until his death.
One of the most significant characteristics of the Palestrina's style is that dissonant intervals are produced  in ´´weak´´ parts of the measure. This results in a more consonant  type of polyphony, typical of that historical period.
Today, the Palestrina style is the basis of education for students of Renaissance music at conservatories and colleges thanks to the efforts of Johan Joseph Fux, a composer and theorist of the 18th century. In his book "Gradus ad Parnassum" ( 1725), Fux collected and codified Palestrina's techniques  to be used as an educational tool for composition students.
According to Fux, Palestrina founded the following guidelines:
The flow of music is dynamic, not rigid or static.
Melody should contain few leaps between notes.
If a leap occurs, it must be small and immediately countered by stepwise motion in the opposite direction.
Dissonances are to be confined to passing notes and weak beats. If one falls on a strong beat, it is to be immediately resolved
Later on, Knud Jeppesen fixed some stylistic mistakes made by Fux.

                                        Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli

Palestrina Style: School of Rome

The term "Palestrina style" refers to the church acapella music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. The Palestrina style was  based on  principles derived from imitation, counterpoint, melody, consonance and dissonance.
In the early 17th century the Palestrina style was already known as "old style". It was the basis  for the school of Rome.
the conservative  musicians of that school  rejected the style and forms of their modern, Baroque era  (aria, recitative, oratorio, opera, cantata, Toccata, etc.) They were devoted  themselves to music composition according to the earlier vocal style of Palestrina period.  (liturgies, motets, requiem, chants, etc.)
Venetian polychoral  style had  been incorporated  into Roman style . G.M Ninino (1545-1607), F. Suriano (1597- after 1621), F. Foggia (circa1604-1688) stand among the representatives of Roman school.


Caecilian movement
The style of Palestrina revived and even later, in the 19th century. Caecilian movement took its name from St. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians and church music. The aim of the movement was to restore the well known Palestrina style. Representatives of that movement believed that the "splurging" music that was produced in the 18th century, written for choir and musical instruments, with secular characteristics, should be replaced by the a cappella music of Palestrina style.
Today the Palestrina style is very important in regard with  the study of counterpoint.

                                              Palestrina - Sicut Cervus


resources
1.Willi Apel, Harvard dictionary of music, second edition, eighth printing
  Λήμματα:  school of Venice, Palestrina Style, School of Rome, Cecilian movement
2.   http://www.fondpalestrina.org/

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