Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 – 2 February 1594) was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He has had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and his work has often been seen as the culmination of Renaissance polyphony. [source]
“Josquin is the master of the notes; others are mastered by them.”—Martin Luther
Perhaps the finest composer of the High Renaissance was Josquin des Prez, third in the trio of great fifteenth-century Franco-Flemish composers. His major works are the nineteen masses he composed in a dramatic and masterful fashion.
“He [Ockeghem] alone of all singers is free from all vice and abounds in all virtues.”—Francesco Flori
The Franco-Flemish composer Johannes Ockeghem succeeded Guillaume Dufay as the most celebrated composer of his period, and was praised for the “extraordinary sweetness and beauty” of his music.
Relatively few of Ockeghem’s compositions have survived, among them fourteen masses that were the most important of their time. The earliest of these masses were composed on the accepted pattern of the cantus firmus (an existing melody used as the basis for the polyphonic composition). Ockeghem later experimented with the pattern, freeing the cantus firmus from its usual tenor part; and he became the fist known composer to use melodies from his own songs as the cantus firmus in a number of his masses. Several of Ockeghem’s masses do not even rely on a cantus firmus, but are freely constructed from rhythmic and melodic fragments.
In the succession of medieval composers I have enjoyed so far, I seem to have made personal connections with every other one. Hildegarde von Bingen I adored; the representatives of the Notre Dame school—Perotin and Leonin—not so much; Guillaume Machaut I loved. So I wondered about Guillaume Dufay.
I bookmarked numerous pieces, but did not find any particularly compelling until my attention was captured by his beautiful motet Nuper Rosarum Flores. I was all the more intrigued when I learned it was composed for the 1436 consecration of the Basilica de Santa Maria de Fiore. This massive brick dome—which was then in the last stages of completion—was a feat of medieval technology, accomplished by Filippo Brunelleschi.
What just happened to be on my library book shelf?—Ross King’s excellent Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture.
I love connections like this!
Interestingly, it has been argued that the proportional structure of the motet was inspired by I Kings 6:1-20, which gives the dimensions of Solomon’s temple.
Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melded across the skies?
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour,
And éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous loves’ greeting of realer, of rounder replies?
And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.
Goethe said that everyone should read a little poetry and see a fine picture every day, to prevent worldly cares from overcoming our sense of the beautiful. Get your daily dose of beauty at Wrestle with the Angel.