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I first heard this piece of music on BBC Radio Four's Soul Music. My partner and I spent the day walking in the Dartmoor National Park. The mist and drizzle began to close in, making the moorland colours glow; the russet of drying bracken, the purple Ling and golden late-flowering Gorse. I had a yearning for an ice cream, so we pulled into Badger's Holt and bought ice creams from the little snack kiosk. We sat in the car and ate them overlooking the River Dart, and Allegri's Miserere was playing. The soaring music was amazing, hauntingly beautiful. It transported me to another place emotionally. Although, Spem in Alium remains my favourite piece of ecclesiastical music, Allegri's Miserere is a close seciond, and I'm adding it to my Christmas gift list, (actually my birthday's before then and I'm hoping that all my hints are taken on board and my kids think this is a great gift for Mum!)
The voices in Allegri's Miserere soar and rise and roll over each other again and again. The boy soprano sings a high C and a short moment later holds a long high G, whilst the rest of the voices rise and fall beneath.
It is a truly inspirational piece of music, which has to be listened to. Each time I hear it I notice something different. I know it's only September, but I can't help thinking that a CD of Allegri's Miserere would be a great Christmas gift idea for a Mum or Dad who's into this type of music
Miserere was written by Gregorio Allegri in 1630, specifically to be performed in the Sistine Chapel by The Vatican Choir. It was traditionally performed annually on Ash Wednesday.
Allegri originally wrote only a series of chords, but the choiristers embellished these and the piece developed and became famous. The Vatican wanted to keep Miserere within the Sistine Chapel and in the 18th century the penalty for taking this music outside the Vatican was excommunication from the Catholic faith.
Mozart visited the Vatican and heard the music when he was 12 years old. He immediately wrote out the piece, and returned to the Chapel the next day with it hidden under his hat, so that he could check that he had written it correctly. Fortunately he was not excommunicated. Around the same time, others also took the music to the wider world and it lost some of its glamour and popularity.
Mendelsson and Liszt made additions in the 19th Century and in the 20th century it was published with embellishments written in, and is now a fixed piece.
If you like the sound of Miserere, you might like to read about Spem in Alium