Miserere (Allegri)

Miserere (Allegri)

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Miserere, full name "Miserere mei, Deus" (Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

: "Have mercy on me, O God") by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri
Gregorio Allegri
Gregorio Allegri was an Italian composer of the Roman School and brother of Domenico Allegri; he was also a priest and a singer. He lived mainly in Rome, where he would later die.-Life:...

, is a setting of Psalm 51 (50)
Psalm 51
Psalm 51 , traditionally referred to as the Miserere, its Latin incipit, is one of the Penitential Psalms. It begins: Have mercy on me, O God....

 composed during the reign 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...

, probably during the 1630s, for use in 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...

 during matins
Matins
Matins is the early morning or night prayer service in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox liturgies of the canonical hours. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe morning services.The name "Matins" originally referred to the morning office also...

, as part of the exclusive Tenebrae
Tenebrae
Tenebrae may refer to:* Tenebrae, a Christian worship service held during Holy Week * Tenebrae , a horror film by Dario Argento* Tenebrae , soundtrack album for the Dario Argento film...

 service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

. The service would start usually around 3AM, and during the ritual, candles would be extinguished, one by one, until one remained alight and hidden. Allegri composed his setting of the Miserere for the final act within the first lesson of the Tenebrae
Tenebrae
Tenebrae may refer to:* Tenebrae, a Christian worship service held during Holy Week * Tenebrae , a horror film by Dario Argento* Tenebrae , soundtrack album for the Dario Argento film...

 service.

It was the last of twelve falsobordone
Falsobordone
Falsobordone is a style of recitation found in music from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Most often associated with the harmonization of Gregorian psalm tones, it is based on root position triads and is first known to have appeared in southern Europe in the 1480s.Falsobordoni are made up of two...

 Miserere settings composed and chanted at the service since 1514 and the most popular: at some point, it became forbidden to transcribe the music and it was allowed to be performed only at those particular services, adding to the mystery surrounding it. Writing it down or performing it elsewhere was punishable by excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

. The setting that escaped from the Vatican
Apostolic Palace
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Sacred Palace, the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican...

 is actually a conflation of verses set by Gregorio Allegri
Gregorio Allegri
Gregorio Allegri was an Italian composer of the Roman School and brother of Domenico Allegri; he was also a priest and a singer. He lived mainly in Rome, where he would later die.-Life:...

 around 1638 and Tommaso Bai (also spelled "Baj"; 1650–1718) in 1714.

History


The Miserere is written for two choirs, one of five and one of four voice
Voice
Voice may refer to:* Human voice* Voice control or voice activation* Writer's voice* Voice acting* Voice vote* Voice message-In film:* Voice , a 2005 South Korean film* The Voice , a 2010 Turkish horror film directed by Ümit Ünal...

s, and is an example of Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 polyphony
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

 surviving to the present day. One of the choirs sings a simple version of the original Miserere chant; the other, spatially separated, sings an ornamented "commentary" on this. The piece is 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...

 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...

; however, its constant use of the dominant seventh chord
Dominant seventh chord
In music theory, a dominant seventh chord, or major minor seventh chord,is a chord composed of a root, major third, perfect fifth, and minor seventh. It can be also viewed as a major triad with an additional minor seventh...

 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...

.

Three authorized copies of the work were distributed prior to 1770 – to the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I
Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor
| style="float:right;" | Leopold I was a Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and King of Bohemia. A member of the Habsburg family, he was the second son of Emperor Ferdinand III and his first wife, Maria Anna of Spain. His maternal grandparents were Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria...

, to the King of Portugal, and to Padre (Giovanni Battista) Martini
Giovanni Battista Martini
Giovanni Battista Martini , also known as Padre Martini, was an Italian musician.-Biography:Martini was born at Bologna....

. However, none of them succeeded in capturing the beauty of the Miserere as performed annually in 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...

. According to the popular story (backed up by family letters), the fourteen-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...

 was visiting 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...

, when he first heard the piece during the Wednesday service. Later that day, he wrote it down entirely from memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

, returning to the Chapel that Friday to make minor corrections. Some time during his travels, he met the British historian Dr Charles Burney
Charles Burney
Charles Burney FRS was an English music historian and father of authors Frances Burney and Sarah Burney.-Life and career:...

, who obtained the piece from him and took it to London, where it was published in 1771. Once the piece was published, the ban was lifted; Mozart was summoned to Rome by the Pope
Pope Clement XIV
Pope Clement XIV , born Giovanni Vincenzo Antonio Ganganelli, was Pope from 1769 to 1774. At the time of his election, he was the only Franciscan friar in the College of Cardinals.-Early life:...

, only instead of excommunicating the boy, the Pope showered praises on him for his feat of musical genius. The work was also transcribed by 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...

 in 1831 and Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

, and various other 18th and 19th century sources survive. Since the lifting of the ban, Allegri's Miserere has become one of the most popular a cappella
A cappella
A cappella music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It is the opposite of cantata, which is accompanied singing. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato...

 choral works now performed.

Burney's edition did not include the ornamentation
Ornament (music)
In music, ornaments or embellishments are musical flourishes that are not necessary to carry the overall line of the melody , but serve instead to decorate or "ornament" that line. Many ornaments are performed as "fast notes" around a central note...

 that made the work famous. The original ornamentations were Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 techniques that preceded the composition itself, and it was these techniques that were closely guarded by the Vatican. Few written sources (not even Burney's) showed the ornamentation, and it was this that created the legend of the work's mystery. However, the Roman priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 Pietro Alfieri
Pietro Alfieri
Pietro Alfieri was a Roman Catholic priest and at one time a Camaldolese monk, b. at Rome, June, 1801; d. there 12 June, 1863.For many years, Alfieri was the professor of singing at the English College in Rome. He is remembered chiefly for his scientific writings and his collections of music of...

 published an edition in 1840 with the intent of preserving the performance practice of the Sistine choir in the Allegri and Bai compositions, including ornamentation.

The contemporary Polish composer Stanislaw Krupowicz (born 1952) based his own version of the Miserere on that of Allegri.

Recordings


Allegri's Miserere is one of the most often-recorded examples of late Renaissance music. An early and "celebrated" recording of the Miserere was that made in March 1963 by the Choir
Choir of King's College, Cambridge
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge is one of today's most accomplished and renowned representatives of the great British choral tradition. It was created by King Henry VI, who founded King's College, Cambridge in 1441, to provide daily singing in his Chapel, which remains the main task of the...

 of King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

, conducted by Sir David Willcocks, which was sung in English and featured the then-treble Roy Goodman
Roy Goodman
Roy Goodman is a conductor and violinist, specialising in the performance and direction of early music...

. This recording of the Miserere was originally part of a Gramophone LP
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 recording entitled 'Evensong for Ash Wednesday' but the Miserere has subsequently been re-released on various compilation discs.

The most frequently performed arrangement is by the well-known English-born composer John Rutter. In Christmas 2008 the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 aired a recording performed by Harry Christophers
Harry Christophers
Harry Christophers is an English conductor. He attended the King's School, Canterbury and was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral under choirmaster Allan Wicks and played clarinet in the school orchestra alongside Andrew Marriner...

' London based professional ensemble of choir and period instruments orchestra The Sixteen
The Sixteen
The Sixteen are a choir and period instrument orchestra; founded by Harry Christophers in 1979.The group's special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music and a diversity of 20th century...

, for the British public. The Sixteen
The Sixteen
The Sixteen are a choir and period instrument orchestra; founded by Harry Christophers in 1979.The group's special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music and a diversity of 20th century...

 sought to recreate one of the original interpretations of Allegri's masterpiece, based on original transcripts of the first documented notations by Allegri. Other 'authentic' recordings of Allegri's Miserere include those by The Taverner Consort directed by Andrew Parrott
Andrew Parrott
Andrew Parrott is a British conductor, perhaps best known for his pioneering historically informed performances of pre-classical music. He conducts a wide range of repertoire, including contemporary music. He conducted the premiere of Judith Weir's A Night at the Chinese Opera...

 (EMI, 1993), and Ensemble William Byrd directed by Graham O'Reilly (Astree, 2002).

Original


The original is written in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

:

English translation


This translation is from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

, and is used in Ivor Atkins
Ivor Atkins
Sir Ivor Algernon Atkins was the choirmaster and organist at Worcester Cathedral for over 50 years . He is well known for editing Allegri's Miserere with the famous top-C part for the treble...

' English edition of the Miserere (published by Novello):

Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness
According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offences.
Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged.
Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
Thou shalt purge me with hyssop
Hyssop
Hyssop is a genus of about 10-12 species of herbaceous or semi-woody plants in the family Lamiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to central Asia. They are aromatic, with erect branched stems up to 60 cm long covered with fine hairs at the tips. The leaves are narrow oblong, 2–5 cm...

, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.
Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
O give me the comfort of Thy help again: and stablish me with Thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach Thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of Thy righteousness.
Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew Thy praise.
For Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: but Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise.
O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young calves upon Thine altar.

Sources


External links