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“But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.” ~ Gregorio Allegri

Writing down ‘Miserere’ by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, was punishable by excommunication, but 14 year old Mozart committed it to memory…

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 the last of twelve misereres composed and chanted at the service since 1514, and the most popular. The Vatican wanted to preserve the music’s reputation for mystery and inaccessibility so it was forbidden to be transcribed and was only performed at those particular services. Writing it down or performing it elsewhere was punishable by excommunication.

According to a popular story (backed up by family letters), the fourteen-year-old Mozart was visiting Rome when he first heard the piece during the Wednesday service. Later that day, he wrote it down entirely from memory, returning to the Chapel that Friday to make minor corrections. Some time during his travels, he met the British historian Dr Charles Burney, who obtained the piece from him and took it to London, where it was published in 1771. Mozart was summoned to Rome, but instead of excommunicating the boy, the Pope showered him with praise for his feat of musical genius and the ban was lifted.

Andrea Angelini

About Post Author

Andrea Angelini

Born in Bologna, Italy, Andrea Angelini studied piano and choral music at the Conservatoires of Rimini and Ferrara, where he got a Master. He got his Doctorate in Choral Music at the Cesena Conservatoire of Music. He studied Renaissance Choral Music in England and Rome. He is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the professional group Musica Ficta Vocal Ensemble. For many years, Andrea Angelini has conducted concerts with the choir Carla Amori, in Italy and abroad. He has also conducted, as guest conductor, many important ensembles. He has been member of the Jury at many International Choir’s Competitions in Italy, Europe and Asia. He frequently leads choral workshops in Italy and abroad. (Hungary, Malaysia, Russia, China, Moldavia, Romania, Croatia). Mr. Angelini is also the artistic director of the Rimini International Choral Competition, Claudio Monteverdi Choral Competition, Queen of the Adriatic Sea Choral Festival and Competition and Liviu Borlan Choral Festival. He is the Editor of the International Choral Bulletin (ICB), the membership magazine of the IFCM (International Federation for Choral Music). He is a member for Italy of the World Choir Council. Actually he is the President of AERCO, the Emilia-Romagna Regional Association of Choirs.
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