Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina Essentials
According to (apocryphal) legend, this Italian Renaissance composer helped save polyphonic vocal writing from a ban by the Council of Trent. What is clearly true, however, is that Palestrina's gorgeous melodic lines and clear harmonies showed how vocal writing could be complex and balanced, without obscuring the sacred nature of a text. His example has inspired untold numbers of composers, including Bach (who adapted portions of Missa sine nomine). And the late-20th-century “early music” boom provided us with sterling recordings of Palestrina by groups such as The Tallis Scholars.