Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Allegri Miserere

Following several hearings on radio I have just ordered a CD of the world famous and much loved Miserere composed by Gregorio Allegri, circa 1630.  This masterpiece is so moving - it is based on Psalm 51 and was composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII.  This Pope was so taken with it and he was so powerful that he forbade any performances outside The Sistine Chapel and threatened excommunication from the Catholic Church for those who violated his command. This decree remained unchallenged for 150 years during which time only the rich and powerful were permitted to enjoy it.  Sadly, the world was denied hearing this glorious piece of music - that is until a certain very young and highly talented musician appeared who startled Rome and the world with his genius. Can you guess who?

According to the popular story (backed up by family letters), the fourteen-year-old Mozart was visiting Rome, when he first heard this piece during the Wednesday service. Later that day, he was so impressed he wrote down the 12 minute masterpiece entirely from memory, returning to the Chapel that Friday to make minor corrections. The news of this feat spread quickly throughout Rome and reached the ears of the Vatican. Mozart was summoned to attend an audience with the Pope himself, Pope Clement XIV who turned out a much more forgiving successor, for instead of excommunicating the boy, the Pope showered praises on him for his musical abilities.   Some time during Mozart's travels, he met the British historian Dr Charles Burney, who obtained a copy of the memorized piece and took it to London, where it was published in 1771, and the ban was lifted.

I have found a BBC programme about this fascinating subject so I am posting the entire thing which lasts about 30 minutes - I found this so interesting and it concludes with a rare performance of how the piece might have sounded just as Allegri wrote it because, yes, we are now allowed into the Vatican archives and the original score has been found - and performed. Modern day versions are much more complex.  Note the high top C sung by the soprano several times, just hanging in the air above the harmony. Wonderful.

I know there are not many readers but for those that do - Enjoy


  1. BBC did a wonderful job presenting the history of Miserere.
    Fascinating to find out that the embellishments of this hauntingly beautiful piece were the reason that it was not allowed outside of the Cistine Chapel. I won't give away why for those who are going to watch the program.
    This is a tremendously beautiful piece of music. I thank you, Eddie for sharing this program with your readers.
    To think that young Mozart could listen to it and write the music from only hearing is simply amazing to me.
    Allegri's Miserere is beautiful.
    Enjoy your CD when you get it. I know that you will.

  2. I enjoyed this very much! Thanks for bringing it to my attention...gorgeous!

  3. And it still sounds just as good in June - hasn't faded a bit!


Welcome, pull up a chair and enjoy


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