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Miserere mei, Deus

Miserere mei, Deus

Allegri, Gregorio

Arr. Bishop, Andrew


  • Ensemble: Brass Ensemble
  • Genre: Renaissance
  • Grade: 4
  • Duration: 6.5 minutes
  • Catalog Number: AOS914

Allegri's Miserere mei, Deus (Psalm 51) is one of the most fascinating and popular polyphonic a cappella choral works of all time. Allegri was a chorister at the Sistine Chapel in 1628, and upon hearing this work, Pope Urban VIII was so moved that he issued a decree that it was only to be heard during Holy Week and only within the confines of the Sistine Chapel. Any attempt to publish the work, or perform it outside of the Vatican would result in immediate excommunication from the church.

For nearly a century and a half, this masterwork remained hidden from the public. Legend has it (backed by family letters) that a 14 year old Mozart heard the piece while touring and transcribed it from memory. News of this unauthorized edition prompted the Pope to summon Mozart back to the Vatican. Instead of excommunication, the pope congratulated Mozart on his musical achievement, effectively authorizing the work to be heard outside the Sistine Chapel walls.

This edition for brass ensemble includes the ornamentations added over the centuries by castrati singers, such as the glorious high C in the solo voice. It calls for two separate choirs (a main chorus and soli quartet), with plainchant (played on Euphonium) occurring between the alternating verses both choirs plays. The soli quartet should stand far enough away to achieve the antiphonal effect, but close enough to maintain rhythmic integrity in the final tutti section.

Instrumentation (423.11):

Soli Quartet (Choir 1)
  • Trumpet 1 - provided for trumpet in G (preferred), trumpet in C and piccolo in B♭.
  • Trumpet 2 in C
  • Horn in F
  • Trombone
Main Choir (Choir 2)
  • Trumpet in B♭.
  • Flugelhorn
  • Horn in F
  • Euphonium
  • Trombone
  • Bass Trombone
  • Tuba

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