Allegri - Miserere
Type of Spiritual Experience
Gregorio Allegri (c. 1582 – 7 February 1652) was an Italian composer of the Roman School and also a priest and a singer. He was born and died in Rome. As Andrea Adami wrote, Allegri was regarded as “singularly pure and benevolent”.
He studied music as a puer (boy chorister) at San Luigi dei Francesi. Being intended for the Church, he obtained a benefice in the cathedral of Fermo. Here he composed a large number of motets and other sacred music, which, being brought to the notice of Pope Urban VIII, obtained for him an appointment in the choir of the Sistine Chapel at Rome as a contralto. He held this from 6 December 1629 until his death.
Among Allegri's musical compositions 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 a four-part sinfonia; five masses; two settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah; and numerous motets which were not published in his lifetime. He was one of the earliest composers for stringed instruments, and Athanasius Kircher has given one specimen of this class of his works in his Musurgia. Most of Allegri's published music, especially the instrumental music, is in the progressive early Baroque concertato style. 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.
It is unclear what all his sources of inspiration were, but his humility, belief in the spiritual world and gentleness are well documented – a naturally spiritual man.
A description of the experience
By far the most well known and regarded piece of music composed by Allegri is the
It is written for two choirs, the one of five and the other of four voices. One of the choirs sings a simple fauxbordon based on the original plainsong chant for the Tonus peregrinus; the other choir sings a similar fauxbordon with pre-existing elaborations and the use of cadenzas. The Miserere has for many years been sung annually during Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. Many have cited this work as an example of the stile antico (old style) or prima pratica (first practice).
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 named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who, on a trip to Rome with his father, heard it but twice and transcribed it faithfully from memory, thus creating the first known unauthorised copy.
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 source of the experienceMusician other
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBelieving in the spiritual world
Listening to music
Squash the big I am