NPR Online

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
with Tom Kelly

The Italian Renaissance was a time when creative genius flowed as never before, and some of the greatest artists in history were concentrated in Rome, producing lasting works for the glory of God and the Catholic Church. In this installment of Milestones of the Millennium, a spotlight is cast on the most "perfect" of composers: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. With the help of Harvard music professor Tom Kelly and the Tallis Scholars led by Peter Phillips, we examine his chiseled musical art.

A parallel in music to the creative genius of Michelangelo, Palestrina became known by his hometown of the same moniker, a hilltop village outside of Rome. He actually signed his letters "Giovanni Petraloysio." Born in 1525, nine years before Michelangelo began painting the "Last Judgment" on the wall of the Sistine Chapel, he was appointed to the church's choir by age 30.

A prolific composer, he wrote 104 masses, more than 140 madrigals, plus dozens of other sacred works - offertories, hymns, Magnificats - and some 300 motets. But a living icon, he wasn't: Palestrina was a man of time and place who found a serenity and proportion in his art as opposed to the radical techniques that might bring more attention. His was a music that calmed the turbulent cries of the Counter-Reformation, when seismic theological disputes shook the better part of Christian society.

Listen to Professor Kelly and Bonnie Grice discuss the intricacies of this art with sounds from some of the church's most peaceful and centering repertoire.

In conjunction with Performance Today's Milestones of the Millennium series, a companion CD series is available from Sony Classical™.

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