Netherlands, Utrecht

Palestrina, Music for the Gonzaga Chapel

when 30 April 2017 - 6 May 2017
language English
duration 1 week
fee EUR 280

The Foundation Cappella Stella Maris in co-operation with the Conservatory of Utrecht and the Utrecht Summerschool 2017 is organizing a course of instruction especially for young (pre-) professional musicians around the special and little-known repertory of alternatim masses which Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (C.1525 - 1594) wrote for the private chapel of Gugliermo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua.

Palestrina’s fame began already during his lifetime and has continued until today. Renowned as the greatest proponent of- and model for the late Renaissance/early Baroque style of vocal polyphony (which later became known as the prima pratica or stile antico), Palestrina’s strongest influence was on that of the sacred music of the Catholic counter- reformation.

During the 17th century his conservative compositional style continued to inspire generations of composers of polyphony throughout Europe , Catholic as well as Protestant. Even in his home country Italy, in which the reaction against what we know as the ‘Franco-Flemish’ style of the 15th and 16th century was extreme, the clarity of Palestrina’s later writing style (in which he showed his appreciation of the compositional reforms of the Tridentine Council:1545-1563) was highly respected and emulated. This was certainly due to his adherence to the principles of good Italian declamation (the most important principle of the seconda pratica), but also because of his rich triadic approach to polyphony, which would become the basis of all later musical development through the 19th century. It is not a coincidence that this combination was completely compatible with the already well-developed ornamental practice of coloratura singing and its primarily instrumental equivalent, the diminution.

Course leader

Dr.Rebecca Stewart - (Ethno)musicologist, singer, Leader of Center Cantus Modalis

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Target group

(Pre-)Professional musicians, music students of conservatory or semi-professional musicians with same level.

Course aim

Modal Singing Technique

Much attention will be given to the learning of the Italian vocal techniques required for Palestrina’s polyphony. As the students will learn, these techniques develop naturally into those of the seconda pratica. Duke Gugliermo’s commission to Palestrina was explicitly to compose a few masses which would be based on the principles advocated by the Council of Trent for a reformed Gregorian chant. Although perhaps not realized at the time, these declamatory principles were essentially Italian in nature.

Another specific feature will be singing and/or playing from the mensural notation of the time. This is a considerable help in understanding both the music and the mentality of the musicians who performed it. For those to whom the notation is new, at first ‘glance’ it may appear somewhat foreign. Knowing that the eyes are often a hindrance to hearing, the instructors have chosen for a highly ‘modal’ approach: 1) everything is taught by oral example. And 2) the most advanced participants will be used as additional guides. Through such a collegial collaboration not only can much be learned in a very short time, but the result will be both lively and of a high quality.

Credits info

Certificate of Attendance

Fee info

EUR 280: Course + course materials


Utrecht Summer School doesn't offer scholarships for this course.

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