Sunday, October 7, 2007

Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus

One of the greatest- if not THE greatest- piece of sacred Christian music is the Miserere mei Deus (Have mercy on me, O God) by the Baroque composer and priest, Gregorio Allegri. At the time, the Miserere was played only at the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week, and anyone caught transcribing the music outside that setting was subject to excommunication. Legend has it that a child-prodigy by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, while visiting Rome, heard the music, and wrote the entire piece on paper entirely from memory. Mozart was summoned to Rome by the Pope, but instead of excommunicating the boy, he praised his musical aptitude.

Gregorio Allegri

Allegri's Miserere
is infused with a palpable sense of mysticism. And by mysticism I don't mean magic, or tarot cards or crystal prisms, or anything like that. I'm referring to the most traditional definition of the word itself: mystery of God. It brings your mind and your senses into a sacred space, and makes you aware that an infinite, boundless, and unfathomable Being exists.

There is a great deal about this piece that I am omitting from this posting, simply because it does have a lengthy and somewhat intricate history. This includes the contribution of another composer by the name of Tommaso Bai, and several different transcriptions that differ from the original version Allegri composed. That, however, takes nothing away from the beautiful resonance of this piece, or the accomplished creativity of its composer.

Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus


kris said...

Tears are streaming down my face... words just can never convey what this does or how it reaches into my heart. I'm so glad a very special someone *wink* brought this music into my home with one very special CD set :O)

paramedicgirl said...

Very interesting - I didn't know that about Miserere; that it was forbidden outside of Holy Week. The Catholic Church has such a rich history. Sadly, we're in danger of losing much of it from modernism.