Gregorio Allegri

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Gregorio Allegri

Composer

• ca1582 1652

Editor's Choice

Born around 1582 in Rome, Gregorio Allegri climbed the career ladder from boy chorister to favoured composer of the pope. He was appointed to the choir of the Sistine Chapel in 1529, for which he wrote the piece that immortalised his name, his setting of Psalm 51, Miserere mei, Deus. It was guarded jealously by the Vatican in the century that followed, but everything changed when the 14-year-old Mozart visited Rome, heard it twice and, remarkably, wrote it out from memory. By the time Mozart wrote it down, a century of performance and improvised ornamentation had pulled the piece away from Allegri’s original; he almost certainly didn’t write the famous crowning high-Cs. The Miserere has eclipsed everything else he composed; some of his other religious vocal works sit beside it this album from the vocal ensemble A Sei Voci, such as his richly varied Missa Vidi Turbam Magnum.

Biography

Born in 1582, Gregorio Allegri, an Italian priest, singer, and composer in the tradition of the stile antico, is primarily known for his Miserere, a nine-part setting of Psalm 51. He spent much of his life working in Roman churches, joining the papal choir in 1629 and eventually becoming its choirmaster. According to a legend, Mozart wrote out the full score of this work after hearing it only once, thus effectively circumnavigating the rule that prohibited anyone from removing any parts of the score from the Sistine Chapel, where it was guarded. During the Romantic period, when composers and literary figures embraced the ideals of the stile antico, Allegri's Miserere was much admired. Allegri's other works include motets and instrumental concertini. He died in 1652.

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