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’Allegri’s Miserere’ in the Sistine Chapel
Title Details

388 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

33 b/w. 42 line.

Imprint: Boydell Press

'Allegri's Miserere' in the Sistine Chapel

by Graham O'Reilly

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
  • Reviews
The Miserere by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) is one of the most popular, oft performed and recorded choral pieces of late Renaissance/early Baroque music. Yet the piece known today bears little resemblanceto Allegri's original or to the piece as it was performed before 1870.

The Miserere attributed to the Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) is one of the most popular, often performed and recorded choral pieces of late Renaissance/early Baroque music. It was composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII in the 1630s, for the exclusive use of the Papal Choir in the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week, the last of thirteen surviving Misereres sung at the services of Tenebræ since 1514. When the young Mozart visited Rome, so the story goes, he transcribed it from memory, risking excommunication but helping posterity to reclaim the piece. Yet the Miserere known today bears little resemblance to Allegri's original or to its method of performance before 1900.
This book is the first detailed account of this iconic work's performance history in the Sistine Chapel, in particular focussing on its heyday in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Rather than looking at the Miserere as a work on paper, the key to its genesis - as this book reveals - can only be found in a performance context. The book includes consideration both of the implications of that context in recreating it for performance, and of the history and practice of the "English Miserere" - the version commonly heard today. Appendices present key source transcriptions and two performance editions.
Introduction - Myth and reality
Part One: The 16th and 17th centuries
1. Context
2. Creation
3. Transformation
Part Two: The 18th century
4. Show business
5. 18th century sources 1 - Blainville and Mozart
6. 18th century sources 2 - The Paris and Manchester manuscripts
7. 'Con suoi rifiorimente, come si deve eseguire' - What the earliest ornamented manuscripts show
Part Three: The 19th century
8. The Papal Choir in the 19th century 1 - Giuseppe Baini
9. 19th century sources 1 - British Library Add. MS 31525 and related manuscripts
10. 19th century sources 2 - Alfieri's Il Salmo Miserere of 1840
11. The Papal Choir in the 19th century 2 - Domenico Mustafà
12. 19th century sources 3 - The Vatican manuscript of Domenico Mustafà
Part Four: Performing the Miserere in the 20th century
13. The current 'popular' version of the Allegri Miserere: the 'English Miserere'
14. Introduction to the editions
15. Aspects of performance practice 1 - Performing pitch
16. Aspects of performance practice 2 - Expression
17. Aspects of performance practice 3 - Performing forces
18. Conclusion
Part Five: Appendices, editions and notes
Bibliography

GRAHAM O'REILLY is founder and conductor of the French-based Ensemble William Byrd, which recorded the Miserere from a late Vatican manuscript in 2000.

"This is an essential read for amateur and professional choral singers and directors, but [also] for music lovers, giving an inspiring insight into the complexities of musical transmission and the development of musical interpretation through the ages." Andrew Benson-Wilson: Early Music Reviews
"[An] absorbing volume. . . . [T]his book is a fascinating account of an institution as well as of the multiple transformations of a piece of music that in consequence of its textural uncertainties, as O'Reilly comments, has "only really existed within a performance context."" Thomas Cooper, The Consort
"It is the open and yet historically anchored attitude of the author that makes his approach so valuable and his book so worth reading." JOURNAL FOR SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY MUSIC
"Graham O'Reilly opens the door to amazing, and perhaps unexpected, ways of interpreting this iconic work. Whether you are a performer of this work or merely an appreciative listener, O'Reilly's text should be an important and illuminating part of your own journey." THE JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION OF ANGLICAN MUSCIANS
"O'Reilly has produced a comprehensive and definitive account that asks and answers all the relevant questions about this extraordinary work. Most importantly, there is, for the first time, a convincing account of the Papal Choir's performance practice. The book should be compulsory reading for anyone intending to programme, direct, or perform this remarkable piece." JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL EARLY MUSIC ASSOCIATION
"O'Reilly writes in an engaging manner and tells the story particularly from the perspective of a performer and conductor." Noel O'Regan, MUSIC & LETTERS
"Author and conductor Graham O'Reilly unravels the historical and musical threads in a meticulous and entertaining narrative." Opera News
"The entire story has now been told by Graham O'Reilly in an academically rigorous yet thrilling narrated and beautifully written book. There are parts of the story that might do service as the basis for a Netflix blockbuster." Richard Osborne, THE OLDIE

Hardcover

9781783274871

May 2020

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£50.00 / $75.00

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Ebook (EPDF)

9781787449015

May 2020

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£19.99 / $24.95

Title Details

388 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

33 b/w. 42 line.

Imprint: Boydell Press