January 1

by Max Derrickson

Happy Unknown Birthday, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina!
(c. 1525 – February 2, 1594)

Once upon a time, music history books taught that Italian composer Pierluigi (born in Palestrina, near Rome), was the “Savior of Church music.”  It’s a long story, but not particularly accurate.  But Palestrina is as great a composer as any to be the first Birthday composer of the year.  What Palestrina certainly did do was greatly improve (and to Bach and Mendelssohn, to name but two great composers, Palestrina perfected) the handling of Renaissance polyphonic sacred music – using techniques that had tremendous influence over composers to follow… for centuries.  One such technique was the handling of dissonant notes and resolving them as quickly as possible.  Another – that the flow of music should not be static but fluid.  Western music owes a lot of its ideas to Palestrina.  And his beautiful music tells us why.  (See more of my music writings at www.MusicProgramNotes.com, or see my LinkedIn profile). 

Here is a bright and glorious Gloria by Palestrina: