Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Music: Allegri's Miserere

Miserere, by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), is a setting of Psalm 51 composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during matins as part of the exclusive Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week. It was extremely popular and noted for its exquisite beauty. The Vatican wanted to preserve the mystery of the piece and forbid that it be written down, threatening excommunication if anyone did. A young 14-year-old Mozart, however, being the innate genius that he was, listened to the piece as it was sung in the chapel, then wrote it down from memory later that day, words and musical scoring, in its entirety.  When it was discovered, the Pope was so impressed that he lifted the ban. (See an account of that story here)

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