Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da
The character of the "Prince of Music " (he has been given numerous appellations of this sort) must be sought in his works, and they show him to have been a grave, religious man, working not for self-aggrandizement but for "the glory of the Most High God" and these works, to quote Ambros, "breathe the holy spirit of devotion." His attitude toward his art is most clearly set forth in one of his dedications, where he says " Music exerts a great influence upon the minds of mankind, and is intended not only to cheer them, but also to guide and control them, a statement that has not only been made by the ancients, but which is found equally true today. The sharper blame therefore do those deserve who misemploy so great and splendid a gift of God in light and unworthy things and thereby excite men who themselves are inclined to all evil, to sin and misdoings. As regards myself, I have from youth been affrighted at such misuse, and anxiously have avoided giving forth anything which could lead anyone to become more wicked or godless. All the more should I now, that I have attained to riper years, place my entire thoughts on lofty, earnest things such as are worthy a Christian. He surely accomplished work "worthy a Christian for even today, as was true four centuries ago, his music has an inspiring and uplifting power. Rosenwald has given in a few words a vivid suggestion of the difference in style between Palestrina and Bach, the two greatest church composers, the one of the Catholic, the other of the Protestant faith, "Palestrina prays; Bach preaches." It was not by blazing a new trail that Palestrina attained his wonderful style. He worked with the tools left him by his predecessors, wrote in the old ecclesiastical key, in the old polyphonic style, only his master-hand did work more delicate and polished even than that of his great contemporary, Orlandus Lassus. New methods, new instruments, new views have broadened the musical horizon since his time, but Palestrina's music is still magnificent and touching in its simple grandeur. Many tales of his poverty have been told, but they are now considered groundless, for it has been found that he owned considerable land and a number of vineyards, purchased from time to time. The house with its small back garden, where he lived at Palestrina, can still be seen, and rumor has it that Cardinal Vannutelli is trying to have a statue to him raised in his native town.
Palestrina's works were published at Rome and Venice and are not only of remarkable quality but amazing quantity. There were originally twelve books of masses. Another book of four masses appeared in 1601. A few of these masses need be mentioned by name: Sterna Christi Munera, Dies santificatus, Lauda Sinon, Pater Noster, Iste confessor, and Jesu Nostra redemptio, for four voices; Beatus Laurentius, Panem Nostrum, Salve Regina, O Sacrum Convivium, and Dilexi quoniam, for five voices; Ecce ego Joannes, Tu es Petrus, Veni Creator 'Spiritus, and Ut Re Me Fa Sol, for six voices; Confitebor, and Hodie Christus Natus est. But the most famous are Assumpta est Maria in Ccelum; Missa Papse Marcelli; Missa Brevis; and the Stabat Mater; the latter of which Wagner edited. Mendelssohn is said to have considered the Improperia Palestrina's best work. The first book of motets for four voices, a collection for the feast days of the year, Motecta Festorum Totius Anni, was printed in 1563. Five books of motets for from five to eight voices appeared later. Of these motets the Songs of Solomon; Fratres ego enim; Exaudi Domine; Viri Galilaei; Dune complirentur; Peccantem me; and Supra flumina Babylonis; are especially fine. There are also four books of madrigals, Hymni Totius Anni was published in 1589; Book I of Lamentations in 1588; Book I of Magnificats in 1591; offertories for five voices in 1593, and Litanies in 1600. Some madrigals were published separately in contemporary works, and nine of Palestrina's masses, motets, hymns lamentations, offertories and magnificats form seven volumes of Alfieri's Raccolta di Musica, published at Rome in 1841. Burney published the Stabat Mater in 1771 and the Passion music in 1772. Robert Eitner made a complete alphabetical list of Palestrina's works, but the latest and best collection is the complete edition of thirty-three volumes published by Breitkopf and Hartel from 1862 to 1894.