Gregorio Allegri

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Gregorio Allegri (1582February 7, 1652) was an Italian composer and priest of the Roman School of composers, probably of the Correggio family. He mainly lived in Rome, and died there.

He studied music under Giovanni Maria Nanini, the intimate friend of Palestrina. Being intended for the church, he obtained a benefice in the cathedral of Fermo. Here he composed a large number of motets and other sacred music, which, being brought to the notice of Pope Urban VIII, obtained for him an appointment in the choir of the Sistine Chapel at Rome. He held this from December 1629 till his death. In character, he was regarded as singularly pure and benevolent.

Among the musical compositions of Allegri were two volumes of concerti for five voices, published in 1618 and 1619; two volumes of motets for six voices, published in 1621; an edition of four-part sinfonia; five masses, two settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, as well as numerous motets which were not published in his lifetime. He was one of the earliest composers for stringed instruments, and Athanasius Kircher has given one specimen of this class of his works in the Musurgia. Most of Allegri's published music is in the more progressive early Baroque concertato style, especially the instrumental music. However, his work for the Sistine Chapel is descended from the Palestrina style, and in some cases strips even this refined, simple style of all ornament.

By far the most celebrated composition of Allegri is the Miserere. It is written for two choirs, the one of five and the other of four voices, and has obtained a considerable celebrity. One of the choirs sings a simple version of the original Miserere chant; the other choir, spatially separated, sings an ornamented "commentary" on the other choir. The Miserere is still sung annually during Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. It is an example of a work written in the Renaissance polyphonic style, known in the 17th century as the stile antico or prima prattica, which shows influence both from the Roman School and the polychoral techniques of the Venetian School. The Miserere gained international fame when it was included on the soundtrack for the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.

The Miserere is one of the most often-recorded examples of late Renaissance music, although it was actually written during the chronological confines of the Baroque era; in this regard it is representative of the music of the Roman School of composers, who were stylistically conservative. The work acquired a considerable reputation for mystery and inaccessibility between the time of its composition and the era of modern recording; the Vatican, wanting to preserve its aura of mystery, forbade copies: unfortunately they were not prepared for a special visit in 1769 from a 14-year-old Mozart, who, on a visit to Rome with his father, heard it but twice and transcribed it faithfully from memory, thus creating the first bootleg copy. In 1771 Mozart's copy was procured and published in England by the famous traveler and music historian Dr. Burney. The entire music performed at Rome in Holy Week, Allegri's Miserere included, has been issued at Leipzig by Breitkopf and Härtel. Interesting accounts of the impression produced by the performance at Rome may be found in the first volume of Felix Mendelssohn's letters and in Miss Taylor's Letters from Italy.da:Gregorio Allegri de:Gregorio Allegri fr:Gregorio Allegri nl:Gregorio Allegri pl:Gregorio Allegri fi:Gregorio Allegri

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