Anerio, the name of two brothers, musical composers, very great Roman masters of 16th-century polyphony. Felice, the elder, was born about 1560, studied under G. M. Nanino and succeeded Palestrina in 1594 as composer to the papal chapel. Several masses and motets of his are printed in Proske's Musica Divina and other modern anthologies, and it is hardly too much to say that they are for the most part worthy of Palestrina himself. The date of his death is conjecturally given as 1630. His brother, Giovanni Francesco, was born about 1567, and seems to have died about 1620. The occasional attribution of some of his numerous compositions to his elder brother is a pardonable mistake, if we may judge by the works that have been reprinted. But the statement, which continues to be repeated in standard works of reference, that "he was one of the first of Italians to use the quaver and its subdivisions" is incomprehensible. Quavers were common property in all musical countries quite early in the 16th century, and semiquavers appear in a madrigal of Palestrina published in 1574. The two brothers are probably the latest composers who handled 16th-century music as their mother-language; suffering neither from the temptation to indulge even in such mild neologisms as they might have learnt from the elder brother's master, Nanino, nor from the necessity of preserving their purity of style by a mortified negative asceticism.
They wrote pure polyphony because they understood it and loved it, and hence their work lives, as neither the progressive work of their own day nor the reactionary work of their imitators could live. The 12-part Stabat Mater in the seventh volume of Palestrina's complete works has been by some authorities ascribed to Felice Anerio.