Miserere mei Deus: Psalm 51

Miserere mei Deus (“Have mercy on me, O God”) by Gregorio Allegri, using the words from Psalm 51, is one of the most beautiful compositions ever written. In 1638, Allegri composed the Miserere. It was sung during services traditionally on Good Friday of Holy Week, but only in the Sistine Chapel. The pope forbade anyone from transcribing it, and its exact composition was kept secret for over 100 years.

But when fourteen-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart heard the music at the Vatican and transcribed it from memory, it was published in 1771. In 1831, Felix Mendelssohn made a transcription in a higher key, which became the accepted version. Mendelssohn’s “high note” is now the defining moment of the most famous and moving passage of the piece.

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