Composer. His surname was taken from his native city, Palestrina, Italy. He settled in Rome in 1551 and became Music Director of the churches St. John Lateran (1555-60) and St. Maria Maggiore (1561-66) before being appointed to the Cappella Giulia (the Pope's Chapel) at St. Peter's Basilica in 1571. In 1580 Palestrina considered abandoning music for the priesthood when outbreaks of plague wiped out his entire family, but he changed his mind after meeting and marrying a wealthy widow the following year. This gave him the financial independence that allowed him to compose prolifically until his death. Palestrina left over 1000 works, all of them vocal and most of them written for the church. Of his 104 Mass settings the remarkable "Missa Papae Marcelli" (1558) stands out. Legend has it that Palestrina wrote it to persuade the Pope not to ban polyphonic music, which the Roman Catholic cardinals believed had been tainted by secular influences. Scholars have refuted this story, but the "Missa Papae Marcelli" was indeed a landmark of music. With its purity of vocal line and grandeur of expression it was the prototype for all subsequent Masses. For this Palestrina has been called "The Savior of Church Music". It was a sign of his eminence that Palestrina's funeral was held at St. Peter's, and he was buried beneath the floor of the basilica with the epitaph, "The Prince of Music". His tomb was later covered by new construction and attempts to locate the site have been unsuccessful. In 1828 a biography of Palestrina sparked a renewed interest in his work that has never diminished. Speaking of Italian music, Verdi proclaimed, "We are all sons of Palestrina"; and he was the subject of a famous opera by Hans Pfitzner, "Palestrina" (1916).
Bio by: Bobb Edwards