Sunday, May 13, 2007

Currently listening to Allegri's Miserere by the Tallis Scholars

In the Does-God-exist-or-not debate, many arguments are presented in favor of God's existence: St. Anselm's ontology, Descartes, Pascal's wager, intelligent design, --and Handels' Messiah. Surely, some say, a work so great can only be divinely inspired. Well, if Handel's Messiah should count as a proof, Allegri's Miserere must be a confirmation.

Allegri's Miserere is an a cappella piece of choral music, a musical setting of Psalm 51, whose first line is Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam (Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness). Composed during the 1630's and sung at the Sistine Chapel every Holy Week, playing it outside the chapel was forbidden and writing it down or performing it was for a time punishable by excommunication. It is said that the young Mozart after attending a Wednesday service feverishly wrote it down from memory. Although the claim is supported by family letters, the actual transcription made by Mozart was never found.

The performance of the Miserere by the Tallis Scholars is I've read one of the best. The other tracks in this album (Mundy and Pallestrina) I don't care much for, but the Miserere is simply superb.

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