Gregorio Allegri

Gregorio Allegri

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Gregorio Allegri was an Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 of the Roman School
Roman School
In music history, the Roman School was a group of composers of predominantly church music, in Rome, during the 16th and 17th centuries, therefore spanning the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. The term also refers to the music they produced...

 and brother of Domenico Allegri
Domenico Allegri
Domenico Allegri was an Italian composer and singer of the early Baroque Roman School. He was the second son of the Milanese coachman Costantino Allegri, who lived in Roma with his family, and a younger brother of the more famous Gregorio Allegri...

; he was also a priest and a singer. He lived mainly in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, where he would later die.

Life


He studied music as a puer (boy chorister) at San Luigi dei Francesi
San Luigi dei Francesi
The Church of St. Louis of the French is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and titular church in Rome, not far from Piazza Navona. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to St. Denis the Areopagite and St. Louis IX, king of France...

, under the mastro di capella Giovanni Bernardino Nanino
Giovanni Bernardino Nanino
Giovanni Bernardino Nanino was an Italian composer, teacher and singing master of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras, and a leading member of the Roman School of composers...

, brother of Giovanni Maria Nanino
Giovanni Maria Nanino
Giovanni Maria Nanino was an Italian composer and teacher of the late Renaissance. He was a member of the Roman School of composers, and was the most influential music teacher in Rome in the late 16th century...

. Being intended for the Church, he obtained a benefice in the cathedral of Fermo
Fermo
Fermo is a town and comune of the Marche, Italy, in the Province of Fermo.Fermo is located on a hill, the Sabulo with a fine view, on a branch from Porto San Giorgio on the Adriatic coast railway....

. Here he composed a large number of motet
Motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...

s and other sacred music, which, being brought to the notice of Pope Urban VIII
Pope Urban VIII
Pope Urban VIII , born Maffeo Barberini, was pope from 1623 to 1644. He was the last pope to expand the papal territory by force of arms, and was a prominent patron of the arts and reformer of Church missions...

, obtained for him an appointment in the choir of the Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration that was frescoed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio...

 at Rome with the contralto
Contralto
Contralto is the deepest female classical singing voice, with the lowest tessitura, falling between tenor and mezzo-soprano. It typically ranges between the F below middle C to the second G above middle C , although at the extremes some voices can reach the E below middle C or the second B above...

 role. He held this from 6 December 1629 until his death. As Andrea Adami wrote, in character, Allegri was regarded as singularly pure and benevolent.

Among the musical compositions of Allegri were two volumes of concerti for five voices, published in 1618 and 1619; two volumes of motets for six voices, published in 1621; an edition of four-part sinfonia
Sinfonia
Sinfonia is the Italian word for symphony. In English it most commonly refers to a 17th- or 18th-century orchestral piece used as an introduction, interlude, or postlude to an opera, oratorio, cantata, or suite...

; five masses
Mass (music)
The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music...

, two settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, as well as numerous motets which were not published in his lifetime. He was one of the earliest composers for stringed instruments
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

, and Athanasius Kircher
Athanasius Kircher
Athanasius Kircher was a 17th century German Jesuit scholar who published around 40 works, most notably in the fields of oriental studies, geology, and medicine...

 has given one specimen of this class of his works in the Musurgia. Most of Allegri's published music is in the more progressive early Baroque concertato
Concertato
Concertato is a term in early Baroque music referring to either a genre or a style of music in which groups of instruments or voices share a melody, usually in alternation, and almost always over a basso continuo...

 style, especially the instrumental music. However, his work for the Sistine Chapel is descended from the Palestrina style, and in some cases strips even this refined, simple style of all ornament. He is credited with the earliest string quartet
String quartet
A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

.

The Miserere



By far the most celebrated composition of Allegri is the Miserere mei, Deus
Miserere (Allegri)
Miserere, full name "Miserere mei, Deus" by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, 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...

, a setting of Vulgate Psalm 50 (= Psalm 51). It is written for two choir
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

s, the one of five and the other of four voices, and has obtained considerable celebrity. One of the choirs sings a simple fauxbordon based on the original plainsong
Plainsong
Plainsong is a body of chants used in the liturgies of the Catholic Church. Though the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Catholic Church did not split until long after the origin of plainchant, Byzantine chants are generally not classified as plainsong.Plainsong is monophonic, consisting of a...

 chant for the Tonus peregrinus; the other choir sings a similar fauxbordon with pre-existing elaborations and the use of cadenzas. The Miserere
Miserere (Allegri)
Miserere, full name "Miserere mei, Deus" by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, 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...

has for many years been sung annually during Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

 in the Sistine Chapel. Many have cited this work as an example of the stile antico
Stile antico
Stile antico, literally "ancient style", is a term describing music from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. It refers to a manner of composition which is historically conscious, as opposed to stile moderno...

(old style) or prima pratica
Prima pratica
Prima pratica refers to early Baroque music which looks more to the style of Palestrina, or the style codified by Gioseffo Zarlino, than to more "modern" styles. It is contrasted with seconda pratica music...

(first practice). However, its constant use of the dominant seventh chord and its emphasis on polychoral techniques certainly put it out of the range of "prima pratica". A more accurate comparison would be to the works of Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.-Biography:Gabrieli was born in Venice...

.

The Miserere
Miserere (Allegri)
Miserere, full name "Miserere mei, Deus" by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, 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...

is one of the most often-recorded examples of late Renaissance music, although it was actually written during the chronological confines of the Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 era; in this regard it is representative of the music of the Roman School of composers, who were stylistically conservative. The work acquired a considerable reputation for mystery and inaccessibility between the time of its composition and the era of modern recording; the Vatican, wanting to preserve its aura of mystery, forbade copies, threatening any publication or attempted copy with excommunication. They were not prepared, however, for a special visit in 1770 from a 14-year-old Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, who, on a visit to Rome with his father, heard it but twice and transcribed it faithfully from memory, thus creating the first unauthorised copy.

In 1771 Mozart's copy was procured and published in England by the famous traveler and music historian Dr. Burney. However, Burney's edition does not show the ornamentation for which the work was famous. The music itself is rather basic—church music at the time placed a large gap between written and performance practice—embellishments were largely placed in the hands of the performers' tastes, although the Vatican score itself was altered largely by performers and visitors over the years.

The music as it is performed today includes a strange error by a copyist in the 1880s. The curious 'trucker's gear change' from G minor to C minor is because the second half of the verse is the same as the first half, but transposed up a fourth. The original never had a Top C.

The entire music performed at Rome in Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

, Allegri's Miserere included, has been issued at Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

 by Breitkopf and Härtel. Interesting accounts of the impression produced by the performance at Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 may be found in the first volume of Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

's letters and in Miss Taylor's Letters from Italy.

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