Palestrina, John Peter Louis

, called by Dr. Burney the Homer of the most ancient music that has been preserved, was, as his name imports, a native of the ancient Proeneste, now corruptly called Palestrina, and is supposed to have been born some time in 1529. All the Italian writers who have mentioned him, say he was the scholar of Gaudio Mell. Fiamingo, by which name they have been, generally understood to mean Claude Goudimel, of whom we have given some account in vol. XVI.; but this seems doubtful, nor is there any account of his life on which reliance can be placed. All that we know with certainty is, that about 1555, when he had distinguished himself as a composer, he was admitted into the Pope’s chapel, at Rome; in 1562, at the age of thirty three, he was elected maestro di capella of Santa Maria Maggiore, in the same city; in 1571 was honoured with a similar appointment at St. Peter’s; and lastly, having brought choral harmony to a degree of perfection that has never since been exceeded, he died in 1594, at the age of sixty-five. Upon his coffin was this inscription, “Johannes Petrus Aloysius Praenestinus Musicae Princeps.

By the assistance of signor Santarelli, Dr. Burney procured at Rome a complete catalogue of all the genuine productions of Palestrina, which may be classed in the following manner: masses in four, five, and six parts, twelve books; of which lib i. appeared at Rome in folio, 1554, when the author was in the twenty-fifth year of his age; and in that city only went through three several editions during his life. Lib. ii. of his masses, which includes the celebrated composition entitled “Missa Papse Marcelli,” was published likewise at Rome, in 1567. -Of this production it has been related by Antimo Liberati, and after him by Adami, Berardi, and other musical writers, that the pope and conclave having been offended and scandalized at the light and injudicious manner in which the mass had been long set and performed, ^determined to banish music in parts entirely from the church; but that | Palestrina, at the age of twenty-six, during the short pontificate of Marcellus Cervinus, intreated his holiness to suspend the execution of his design till he had heard a mass composed in what, according to his ideas, was the true ecclesiastical style. His request being granted, the composition, in six parts, was performed at Easter 1555, before the pope and college of cardinals, who found it so grave, noble, elegant, learned, and pleasing, that music was restored to favour, and again established in the celebration of sacred rites. This mass was afterwards printed, and dedicated to the successor of Marcellus, pope Paul IV. by whom Palestrina was appointed chapel-master.

The rest of his masses appeared in the following order; Lib. iii. Romas per Valerium Doricum, 1570, in folio, Ven. 1599; Lib. iv. Venet. per Ang. Gardanum, 1582, quarto; Lib. v. Romae, 1590; Lib. vi. Ven. 1596; Lib. vii. 1594; Lib. viii. and ix. Ven. 1599; Lib. x. and xi. Ven, 1600; and lib. xii. without date, or name of the printer. Besides this regular order of publication, these masses were reprinted in different forms and collections, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in most of the principal cities of Italy. The next division of Palestrina’s works consists of Motets for five, six, seven, and eight voices, five books, at Rome and Venice, 1569, 1588, 1589, 1596, and 1601. Motets for four voices, lib. i. Romae, 1590; Lib. ii. Venet. 1604; Two books of Offertorij, a 5 and a 6 voc. Romge, 1593; Lamentationi, a 4 voc. Romae, 1588; Hymns for five voices, Ven. 1598; Litanie, a 4, Ven. 1600; Magnificat, 8 tomum. Romae, 191; Madrigali Spirituali, two books, Rome and Venice, 1594.

To the above ample list of the works of this great and fertile composer, are to be added “La Cantica di Salomone,” a 5; two other books of “Magnificats,” a 4, 5, and 6 voc. One of “Lamentationi,” a 5; and another of secular Madrigals. These have been printed in miscellaneous publications after the author’s death and there still remain in the papal chapel, inedited, another mass, with his “Missa Defunctorum,” and upwards of twenty motets, chiefly for eight voices, a due cori. Nothing more interesting remains to be related of Palestrina, than that most of his admirable productions still subsist. Few of his admirers are indeed possessed of the first editions, or of all his works complete, in printer manuscript; yet curious and diligent collectors in Italy can still, with little difficulty, | furnish themselves with a considerable number of these models of counterpoint and ecclesiastical gravity. The best church compositions since his time have been proverbially called alia Palestrina. 1


Hawkins’s and Burney’s Histories of Musick. and Burney in Rees’s Cyclopeed.