A unique singers’ manuscript from the 19th century: Domenico Mustafa’s version of the Miserere of Tommaso Bai and Gregorio Allegri

Graham O’Reilly


1. Introduction

No music makes such an impression on the heart, none other has such profound effects such as the old masters used to say music should have, nor brings the soul to such a feeling of deepest trembling ... as this Miserere. What one feels with this music, and must feel, nobody in the world has yet felt ... This music is unique of its kind.1

There can never have been music with so natural harmonies so delightfully heard as this Miserere ... It was accompanied by no instruments but is so full and so melodious that it cannot be imitated by anybody just from the score ... in the twilight of the evening as the lights are being put out, in a solemn silence unusual for Italians, this song of lamentation starts. On hearing these melodious tunes, one forgets the earth and is drawn from time to eternity, and can imagine one is hearing the choirs of the saints.2

Nearly a hundred years later, little apparently had changed:

Miserere was sung very slowly with long sustained chords, swelling and diminishing in strength, in almost complete darkness.3

When Moritz Hauptmann wrote this in 1871, he could not have known that the age of the Miserere was drawing to a close. In 1870 the Papal States were annexed by the new Kingdom of Italy as part of the climax of the Risorgimento. Expensive ceremonial at the Vatican was greatly reduced, and part of the cost-cutting included a dramatic reduction in the activities of the College of Papal Singers (the private choir of the Pope who sang for him wherever he went), although a group popularly known as the Sistine Chapel choir, continued (and continues) to perform at important feasts. The last director of the Papal Choir was Abbate Domenico Mustafà, a castrato singer himself (and composer, like many of his predecessors, of a Miserere) who had been named Direttore ten years earlier. He continued as conductor of the Sistine Chapel Choir (consisting of personnel from the Papal College and the choirs of St Peters’ and St John Lateran), but the increasing difficulty in finding castrati put in jeopardy the continued tradition of the Miserere performances – three every Holy Week – which had attracted visitors from throughout Europe and the world for a hundred and fifty years. In addition, old traditions were being increasingly challenged by the so-called ‘Cecilian’ movement (Cäcilianismus), which desired a cleaning of the Augean stables of romantic fantasy (and particularly, castrati), and a return to first principles in Gregorian plainchant and Stile Antico polyphony.

In 1892 Mustafà set down on paper all his recollections of a work that he himself had sung, in a way that would preserve the magic of its tradition, because it was the manner of its performance which set it apart from all other music. So in his score (Vatican MS 375) and accompanying set of parts, he recorded not only the notes but everything he could remember of the interpretation – tempi and dynamics, ornamentation and abbellimenti, phrasing and portamenti – together with copious instructions and advice addressed both to singers and future directors about expressive devices and special effects. Perhaps it was written particularly for the first soprano of the choir, Alessandro Moreschi (famous now for the recordings he made – the only castrato ever recorded), who had arrived in 1883, and certainly sang the Miserere under Mustafà’s direction. It seems in any case to have been Moreschi who finally placed it in the archives, where it remained largely undisturbed until Hugh Keyte was curious enough to ask to see it about fifteen years ago.

2. The Visitors

By the end of the eighteenth century, visitors flocked from throughout Europe to hear what they thought was Allegri’s famous Miserere. Rome in Holy Week was on every Englishman’s Grand Tour, and every German’s too. Although entry was by ticket, the crowd was always dense, with a mad scramble at the door, and there was no guarantee of a place – cynics said that five times as many tickets were given out as there were places. Charles Dickens, one of many English visitors, failing to gain entry into the Sistine Chapel in 1845, recalled:

We saw very little, for by the time we reached it (though we were early) the besieging crowd had filled it to the door, and overflowed into the adjoining hall, where they were struggling, and squeezing, and mutually expostulating, and making great rushes every time a lady was brought out faint, as if at least fifty people could be accommodated in her vacant standing-room.4 

All behaviour was fair to gain admittance:

One powerful French girl, who wished the situation of an Italian lady of my acquaintance in front of her, abruptly demanded it. Being respectfully declined, she, by a process well known to schoolboys, knocked the lady’s legs from under her by striking her in the hollow of her knees, so that she fell as suddenly as if she had been shot. Before she could recover herself or her presence of mind, her place was gone.5

What was the attraction of the Miserere? As many visitors explained, much of it was context:

Some of the great effects produced by this piece, may, perhaps, be justly attributed to the time, place, and solemnity of the ceremonials, used during the performance : the Pope and conclave are all prostrated on the ground ; the candles of the chapel, and the torches of the balustrade, are extinguished, one by one ; and the last verse of this psalm is terminated by the two choirs ; the Maestro di Capella beating time slower and slower, and the singers diminishing or rather extinguishing the harmony, by little and little, to a perfect point.6

But a thousand times over I would go to listen to the Miserere in the Sistine Chapel ; that spot made sacred by the most sublime works of Michael Angelo ... The music, not only of the Miserere, but of the Lamentations, is solemn, pathetic, religious – the soul is rapt – carried away into another state of being. Strange that grief, and laments, and the humble petition of repentance, should fill us with delight – a delight that wakens these very emotions in the heart – and calls tears into the eyes, and yet is dearer than any pleasure.7

The daylight was failing ; the shadows crept slowly across the frescoes of the chapel, and one distinguished but a few bold strokes of Michael Angelo’s brush. The candles, extinguished one by one in turns, sent forth from their stifled flames a slender white smoke, a very natural image of life, which Scripture compares to a little smoke. The cardinals were kneeling, the Pope prostrate before the same altar where a few days before I had seen his predecessor; the admirable prayer of penance and mercy, which succeeded the Lamentations of the prophet, rose at intervals in the silence of the night. One felt overwhelmed by the great mystery of a God dying that the sins of mankind might be wiped out. The Catholic Heiress was there on her seven hills with all her memories; but, instead of the powerful pontiffs, those cardinals who contended for precedence with monarchs, a poor old paralyzed Pope [Pius VIII, elected three weeks previously], without family or support, Princes of the Church, without splendour, announced the end of a power which has civilized the modern world. The master-pieces of the arts were disappearing with it, were fading away on the walls and ceilings of the Vatican, that half-abandoned palace. Inquisitive strangers, separated from the unity of the church, assisted at the ceremony on their way and took the place of the community of the Faithful. The heart was seized with a two-fold sadness. Christian Rome, while commemorating the Agony of Jesus Christ, seemed to be celebrating her own, to be repeating for the New Jerusalem the words which Jeremiah addressed to the old.8

Suggestive gloom, nostalgia, tradition, repentance, ceremonial, beauty – not to mention smells and bells – all these things worked a powerful spell on visitors, even Protestant ones disinclined to take them at face value :

Vanity will not allow me to suppose it weakness yet I must confess that though sufficiently aware of the empty senseless pomp, the tricked and tinsel state and pageantry of catholic ceremonies, I never have assisted in any of their great days of Devotion without experiencing a deep, involuntary, impression if not of devotion at least of reverence even for the empty shadow of religion. Afterwards I grant that recollection brings the service back to my mind clad with a thousand absurdities, a thousand whimsical conceits, hid at the time under the awful and imposing solemnity of the scene, an effect which the sublimity of catholic music contributed much to produce.9

3. Tenebræ

The office of Tenebræ seems calculated to have maximum effect. Starting in the late afternoon, it combines the offices of Matins and Lauds of the following day, being celebrated on Wednesday evening for the offices of Maundy Thursday, Thursday evening for those of Good Friday, and Friday evening for those of Easter Saturday. It lasts several hours, a fact constantly alluded to by those 18th and 19th century tourists who had come for the Miserere and found themselves crammed uncomfortably into the Sistine Chapel waiting for it. Ludovic Celler described the scene in La Semaine Sainte au Vatican, published in 1867 :

The most enthusiastic among the curious had already arrived at noon, and queued until 2 o’clock ; they were then allowed into the Sistine, where they waited again until 4 o’clock. The Lamentations then started, and continued until half past six ; the wait was really long, but one puts up with anything for the Allegri Miserere, that’s what they’ve all come to hear – nothing else.10

Matins consists of nine psalms, each with its own Lesson (the first three are extracts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah) and Responsory, and of course the appropriate antiphons. Lauds has three psalms and two canticles. In the Sistine Chapel, at the end of each of these 14 pieces (12 psalms and 2 canticles), a candle was extinguished on the large triangular Candelabrum Tenebræ, leaving just the so-called ‘Christ candle’ (made of whiter wax) at the top still lit.

As the final canticle, Benedictus, finished, the lights of the balustrade were extinguished, and the ‘Christ candle’ was taken away and hidden. The Pope and his cardinals prostrated themselves before the altar, and out of the darkness inside the chapel, coinciding with the onset of night outside, came a single soprano voice (or, according to certain witnesses, two11]), intoning the final versicle ‘Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem...’. The rubric then requires the Pater noster and the Miserere to be said in secret. During the reign of Pope Leo X (1513–1521), it seems to have been decided that while the Pater noster should remain silent, it would be well to have the Miserere sung, an innovation which means that it is in a sense extra-liturgical. The first setting of it for this context was that of Costanzo Festa, and it set the template for all those that followed, with its formula of the alternation of a choir of five voices and another of four.12

When the Miserere was finished, a final prayer was said (‘Respice, quaesumus, Domine, super hanc familiam tuam...’), the Pope and his cardinals rose, and made a great noise with their feet on the floor to illustrate the earthquake at the sixth hour, or perhaps the chaos of the world deprived of its Redeemer, depending on which commentary you read.13 Finally the Christ candle was fetched from behind the altar, and all dispersed in silence.

4. Misereres

As noted above, Tenebræ is sung three times in Holy Week, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There were thus three Misereres to be sung in the Chapel each year. Many composers sought the magic formula: among the names mentioned in the twelve different settings found in Vatican MSS 205 and 206 (and reproduced in the Avant-Propos to the French edition of 1838 – see below) are those of Luigi Dentice (1533), Francisco Guerrero, Ruggero Giovanelli (1599), Théophile Gargano (1601), Francesco Anerio (twice), Palestrina himself, Nanini (a variant of Palestrina’s), and Sante Naldini in 1617.

Allegri’s is normally said to have been composed in 1638 (although some say 1629, the year he joined the Chapel as a singer), and seems to have rapidly eclipsed most of the others, being soon performed twice, on Wednesday and Good Friday, with that of either Anerio or Naldini on the Thursday. From 1680 a Miserere by Alessandro Scarlatti occasionally replaced Naldini’s on Thursdays, but the final solution was not found until 1714, when Tommaso Bai, then director of the choir of the Cappella Giulia (the choir of St Peter’s Basilica) hit upon the ingenious plan of tailoring his setting to that of Allegri, so that the same ornaments (known as abbellimenti) could be applied to his own 4-part verses. For the public who came to hear ‘the Allegri’, they were now sure to be satisfied.14 Bai’s setting also had the advantage of much interesting harmonic variation as, unlike Allegri’s, each verse is different. It is no doubt this variety that caused it to become the ‘Miserere of choice’ by the time Mustafà made his manuscript. After Bai’s version entered the canon, the only Miserere heard more than once or twice was that composed by Giuseppe Baini in 1821, and that may have had much to do with the fact that he was the director of the choir from 1814 until his death in 1844.

5. Allegri’s Miserere

Following closely Festa’s ground-plan, Allegri set the odd verses alternately for 5 and 4 voices, with the even ones, as was usual in fauxbourdon psalm settings, left to be sung in plainchant. The tone is recognisably the Tonus Peregrinus, which is heard in the five-part verses first in the second tenor, then in the soprano, and in the four-part ones entirely in the first soprano. Allegri’s five-part choir was notated in c1 c3 c4 c4 f4, i.e. SATTB.15

The first important evolution came early in the 18th century, with the appearance of a new version of its five-part verses in Vatican MS 185, dated 1731.16 In this the second tenor part has been transformed into another soprano part, which means that the vestiges of Tonus Peregrinus are more clearly heard. Also, the second half of the verse is more elaborate, moving into polyphony after ‘secundum ma-’ for ‘-gnam misericordiam tuam’, whereas in the original version ‘secundum magnam miseri-’ was recited before the composed cadence, consisting only of ‘-cordiam tuam’.

It is worth mentioning that this revision to the second half increases its similarity to many of the 5-part verses of Bai’s setting: firstly in the division of the text between chant and polyphony, and secondly in the harmony; after the F major reciting chord, a chord of c minor leads back to the g minor of the beginning of the verse, before finishing with the double imperfect cadence of the original (D–g–D). It seems quite possible that the revision of MS 185 was made under the influence of Bai’s new setting, an early example of the cross-fertilization between the two which came to its fruition in the combination of the two in performance, as described by Alfieri, and witnessed in Mustafà’s MS.

In any case, no-one who knows the currently popular version would be disoriented by this one. Further refinements were made (not in ornaments, but in harmonic planning) in time for the version printed by Burney in 1771 as part of La musica che si Canta Annualmente nelli Funzioni della Settimana Santa nella Cappella Pontificia. This served as the basis for the five-part verses in Atkins’ edition of 1951 (see also n.38). Burney also printed the four-part verses (absent in Vatican 185) which show very little apparent evolution since Vat 206.

6. Coloured or Plain?

But all is not what it seems. Burney’s commentary, published in his companion volume The Present State of Music in France and Italy, makes perfectly clear that his score does not include everything the choir sang:

Signor Santarelli [one of the Papal singers] favoured me with the following particulars relative to the famous Miserere of Allegri. This piece, which, for upwards of a hundred and fifty years, has been annually performed in Passion Week at the Pope’s chapel, on Wednesday and Good-Friday, and which, in appearance, is so simple as to make those, who have only seen it on paper, wonder whence its beauty and effect could arise, owes its reputation more to the manner in which it is performed, than to the composition : the same music is many times repeated to different words, and the singers have, by tradition, certain customs, expressions, and graces of convention, (certe espressioni e Gruppi) which produce great effects; such as swelling and diminishing the sounds altogether ; accelerating or retarding the measure at some particular words, and singing some entire verses quicker than others.17

He goes on to describe the end (see above), a passage which has become famous as a description of the first big diminuendo on a final chord, or perhaps, according to some, throughout the final verse. Burney gives us the original Italian, from Andrea Adami’s Osservazioni per ben regolare il coro della Capella pontificia (1711) which he had acquired in Rome :

Averta pure il Signor Maestro che l’ultimo verso del Salmo termina a due Cori, e però sarà la Battuta Adagio, per finirlo Piano, smorzando a poco, a poco l’Armonia.

But he makes one or two slips especially with commas. It should read:

Avverta pure il Signor Maestro che l’ultimo verso del Salmo termina a due Cori, e però farà la Battuta Adagio, per finirlo Piano, smorzando a poco a poco, l’Armonia.

which may be more precisely translated thus:

Also the choirmaster must remember that the last verse of the psalm ends with two choirs, and so the beat should be slow, so as to finish the music piano, with a gradual smorzando. [In this context, I take ‘l’Armonia’ to mean ‘the music’).18

He continues, copying directly from Adami:

This composition used to be held so sacred, that it was imagined excommunication would be the consequence of an attempt to transcribe it. Padre Martini told me there were never more than two copies of it made by authority, one of which was made for the late king of Portugal [no doubt João V (died 1750), whose dream was to recreate the Vatican and all its ceremonial in Portugal, at Mafra], and the other for himself: this last he permitted me to transcribe at Bologna, and Signor Santarelli favoured me with another copy from the archives of the Pope’s chapel: upon collating these two copies, I find them to agree pretty exactly, except in the first verse. I have seen several spurious copies of this composition in the possession of different persons, in which the melody of the soprano, or upper part, was tolerably correct, but the other parts differed very much; and this inclined me to suppose the upper part to have been written from memory, which, being so often repeated to different words in the performance, would not be difficult to do, and the other parts to have been made to it by some modern contra-puntist afterwards.

He then goes on to recount how the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I prevailed upon the Pope to send him a copy for use in his chapel in Vienna, but when it arrived and was performed, he found that it had but little in common with the piece he had heard in the Sistine Chapel; his letter of complaint was sufficient to have the poor Maestro di Capella who had prepared it sacked. When this latter finally managed to make his defence (several years later!), he explained:

that the stile of singing in his chapel, particularly in performing the Miserere, was such as could not be expressed by notes, nor taught or transmitted to any other place, but by example; for which reason the piece in question, though faithfully transcribed, must fail in its effect, when performed elsewhere. His Holiness did not understand music, and could hardly comprehend how the same notes should sound so differently in different places.

It was decided that the only solution was to send the Papal singers to Vienna to instruct the Duke’s singers

in the same expressive manner as in the Sistine chapel in Rome. 

But before this could happen, war broke out between Leopold and the Turks.

These passages by Burney became well known, and were endlessly repeated by later writers. At the same time, they pose many questions.

– Leopold died in 1705. He fought against the Turks on and off throughout his entire reign, which started in 1658. The last possible date for an unexpected outbreak of war is the mid 1690’s. So if this story is true, it was at least three-quarters of a century old when Burney told it, and says clearly that already, before the end of the 17th century, the changes to Allegri’s basic score were sufficient to render it unrecognisable.

– Despite this, Burney printed a simple, one might almost say anodyne, version of the four-part verses of the Miserere, which presumably even then contained the most extravagant transformations. And yet he says that he has seen many different copies, and particularly comments on the soprano parts in them as being reasonably accurate.  Among those who made a transcription ‘from the life’ was Mozart (recounted in a letter from his father Leopold to his wife dated April 14th, 1770), and he made it the very year that Burney was himself there.19 It is worth pointing out that even Mozart required two visits to be satisfied that he had memorised it accurately. It seems unlikely that he would have needed them to note down what Burney subsequently printed. On the other hand, it is quite believable that lesser mortals would be struggling to get precisely even the soprano part if it resembled what was later printed with the famous abbellimenti.

– Why should Burney print something which only contained a fraction of the story, unless there was nothing else available? It is worth noting that Santarelli’s copy came from the archives, as did, in a way, Martini’s. How far did they reflect what the choir actually sang? By the look of it, very little. One can understand that indications of speed and dynamics might not be noted in an archive copy, but it is surprising to find no variant notes, nor even a single one of the certe espressioni e Gruppi.

There are only two possible answers :

  1. the MSS which contained them really were so secret that they did not leave the choir room, or
  2. the tradition was still largely an oral one. This second solution, of course, does not preclude some phrases being scribbled onto separate parts as aides-mémoire, but which by their unorganised and temporary nature, remained out of the mainstream of the official archives.

7. ‘Coloured’ Sources – Paris

If Mozart’s transcription had survived, it would undoubtedly offer us a unique insight into what the Papal Choir was singing in 1770, for there are no other sources with abbellimenti before the very end of the 18th century.

The earliest of them is perhaps a manuscript now in Paris, which is said to have been a present from Giuseppe Baini himself, and which was brought back from Rome by a M. Mesplet. His story is told in the subsequent edition of 1838:

At the time of the first invasion of Italy by Bonaparte, MM. Mesplet, Monge, Kreutzer, Denon and others were sent to Rome as administrative representatives responsible for objets-d’art. M Mesplet, being taken to the two little rooms containing the Pontifical Archives, ordered them to be immediately sealed. They all remained intact, and when the French left, M Mesplet returned the keys of this precious repository. The Roman Court was extremely grateful to our compatriot for his scrupulous conduct, for which they presented him with a legally binding certificate. Pius VII’s Maitre de Chapelle, M Baini, gave M Mesplet a little manuscript as a present, which he subsequently presented to the Library of the Conservatoire, and which is an authentic volume of pieces sung in the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week.20

Mesplet was a musician, or at least an arranger and publisher of music. In 1806, he published a piano arrangement of Méhul’s Chanson de Roland. He followed up in 1813 with two volumes of ‘Douze adagio, andante, menuets et trio tirés des symphonies de Haydn et arrangés pour le piano, avec accompagnement du violon, par Mesplet ... chez les marchands de musique’, which was announced in the Journal Général de la Littérature de France of that year. The same volumes are listed in the Bibliographie Musicale de la France et de l’Etranger of 1822, now classified as a ‘Pot-pourri’, and available ‘chez l’Auteur’. The same source reveals his new job : ‘surveillant des classes à l’Ecole Royale de Musique et de Déclamation’, the predecessor of the Paris Conservatoire. As such he was part not of the teaching staff, but of the administration under its director Cherubini – and a small part at that21. He was still there in 1826, according to the Almanach des Spectacles for that year. He was evidently not a great man, either in the arts or in politics, as were the others – Denon, Monge and Kreutzer – named in the preface. There is no record of his dates of birth or death, and it has not been possible even to ascertain his first name.

In any case, Mesplet gave (or perhaps, lent in advance of bequeathing in his will) the manuscript to his employers, the Conservatoire, where it was catalogued in the Library as Recueil 32 and given the following title : ‘Collection de musique Tirée de la Chapelle Sixtine appartenant a Mesplet’.22 It contains two versions of verses 1 (a5) and 3 (a4), the first said to be ‘come l’Originale’, and the second ‘come si dove eseguire suoi rifiorimenti che s’imparano per tradizione’. For the end of verse 3, ‘munda me’ is provided with alternative versions of the two decorated soprano parts. The MS also contains music by Zarlino, Bernabei, Porta, Ciciliani, Fazzini, and much by Palestrina, including interesting variations (also marked ‘come si dove eseguire’) on the Improperia which was sung at the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday, and of which Mendelssohn wrote with such admiration after his visit in 1831.23

The ‘original’ versions turn out to be virtually identical with Vat 185 (1731) for verse 1, and Vat 206 for verse 3. But the ‘reflowered’ versions contain embellishments notably different to anything hitherto written down:


                                     [NB : slashed slurs from 1838 print]

The part of this MS which contains the Miserere was published in its entirety in 1838 by Bobœuf et Cie, rue Cadet 23 [Paris] as part of ‘Sainte Cécile, premier semestre 1838, collection de musique religieuse. Musique à très bonne marché’ under the title ‘Miserere de Gregorio Allegri. Executé le Mercredi et le Vendredi saints dans la Chapelle Sixtine’.

There is an extensive Avant-propos, which shows all the signs of having been written by Mesplet himself :

This piece has an immense reputation in the Christian world. We know that, apart from its great beauty, this Miserere, as well as the other sacred pieces like it, draws much of its powerful effect from its place in the ceremonies of the Papal Chapel. We can add here another interesting fact: this Miserere was for a very long time communicated to nobody, and it was strongly forbidden to give it, or to take a copy of it ; however, towards the end of the 18th century a Prince, who had been very moved when he heard it, persuaded the Holy Father to send him a copy of the famous Miserere ... 24

The preface, clearly based on Burney’s Present State of Music in France and Italy, continues with his story of Leopold I but transplanted a century later (‘vers la fin du 18ème siècle’ – later even than Burney himself!) no doubt to make it sound more up-to-date. Then follows the list (see above) of all the composers who had written Misereres, which can only have come from inside the Vatican, perhaps by knowledge of Vatican MSS 205 and 206. It finishes:

At last in 1821, on the orders of Pius VII, Giuseppe Baini, director of the Sistine Chapel, composed a final Miserere with great success ; and since that time, they restrict themselves to the three of Allegri, Bai and Baini.25

The first invasion of Italy took place in 1796, and the “administrative representatives”, including Mesplet, would have arrived as soon as possible, to assess the riches on offer and put them under lock and key ; once they had been secured, they could make off with whatever they wanted in their own time. It seems evident that the ‘two little rooms’ which Mesplet sealed contained specifically the musical archives (the complete Pontifical archives no doubt occupied several buildings) and that Mesplet was given charge of them as the musician of the party.26 Having access to them, he could have thoroughly perused 205 and 206, and no doubt recorded the information which was printed in 1838.

All these commissioners left in 1797, and it is possible that Mesplet handed back the keys and received the manuscript at that time. But he could hardly have received it from Baini, who had only joined the choir in 1795, and was not named Direttore until 1818. Moreover, despite the invasion, the Papal Choir seems to have continued to function normally, with all the usual Holy Week ceremonies, until 1809, and probably would have needed it. In June of that year, the Pope (Pius VII) was kidnapped by the French, and the Papal Choir, whose sole function was to sing for him, seems to have found itself temporarily disbanded. When they resumed activity on his return in May 1814, Baini was put in charge of reorganizing the archive and, according to his own testimony, found that the only copy of the Miserere had gone missing, obliging him to teach it to the new singers from memory.27 Mesplet’s version of events can only be true if for some reason he returned to Rome at some point around 1814 to re-open the archive and receive his gift, and if Baini was empowered at that time to give it to him. Although not impossible, it does not seem very likely, and it must be said that Mesplet’s attempt to cover himself from accusations of theft by mentioning the ‘legally binding certificate’ attesting to his ‘scrupulous conduct’, sounds rather like special pleading. But if it was indeed a unique copy, and in use until 1809, how and when he obtained it remains a mystery. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is sure that such a manuscript, dating from 1796 or earlier, went to Paris at around this time.28

The preface continues :

We present here the Miserere of Allegri, as it was published in London in 1771 by Burney. But we also add a kind of duplicate, a very interesting piece, about which here is a short preamble... 29

Then follows Mesplet’s version of how he came by the manuscript, followed by an explanation of the additions :

Among these pieces of hallowed music [in this manuscript] is the Miserere of Allegri, in the author’s original version. We print here the original text without barlines, in the manner of plain-chant ; and in addition another piece at least as precious : the same Miserere written rhythmically, and with the embellishments gradually introduced and preserved by tradition. We believe that everyone will be grateful to us for having unified these different versions and made them known.30

After reproducing Vat 185 (except for rather inexpertly imposing rhythms on the opening chanted parts of each verse), the printed edition reproduces exactly the Conservatoire MS version with the ‘fioritures’ – even down to copying inexactitudes (for example the placement of the appoggiaturas, which is imprecise in the MS). It is also worth noting that it follows the original versions of the bass parts in the first bars of verses 1 and 3 of the ‘flowery’ versions, where they make fifths with the soprano. In the MS, these have been amended with lighter ink, no doubt by a later hand. That this was a Sistine Chapel speciality which shocked some hearers can be confirmed by the account of Louis Spohr, who visited Rome in 1817:

Five solo voices intone the C minor triad in a beautiful 5-part chording, tender and pure, like a harmony from another world. Never has a simple chord made such a powerful impression on me. But then all too soon one was reminded that one was hearing an earthly music, indeed sung by Italians: for already in the second bar the ear was tortured by the sequences of fifths [second version, below]... I wouldn't have believed anybody, not even my own ears, that it could be possible to sing like that in the Sistine Chapel had I not myself heard that very section of the piece repeated four more times. Is this perhaps the mysterious manner of performing these old compositions, of which it is said that it has been passed on by tradition from one singer to another and is only known to this choir? Surely not! Only the newer (breed of) Italian singers can sing like that, as they clearly have a feeling for melody, but no idea about harmony.31


Spohr seems to have believed that the choir was trying to sing his version 1 – it does not seem to have occurred to him that all the notes not part of the C minor chord were additions, as in version 2!

Mendelssohn noted the same effect, but in a performance of Palestrina’s Improperia during the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday.


But he seems to have got used to it:

Such passages as that at the commencement, where all the voices sing the same embellishment, repeatedly occur, and the ear becomes accustomed to them.32

8. ‘Coloured’ Sources – England, Italy and Germany

In the twenty years after Mesplet’s small volume found its way back to Paris, versions of the abbellimenti started to appear in many manuscripts. No two are completely identical. Two typically interesting ones are in London and Warsaw.

The London one is in the British Library as Ms. Add. 31525. The old BM catalogue stated it to be 18th century but, given that it is said to have been brought back from Rome by the English organist, musicologist and teacher Joseph Warren (1804–1881), whose name is on it, it is more likely to date from the first half of the 19th century.33 It is in fact two manuscripts bound together. The first is marked: ‘Come si eseguisce nella Cappella Pontificia Di Roma. In Roma presso Bened[etto] Morganti Via de Crociferi n°119 F.o’ and is attributed to “Sigr Mro Baj”. The second, in a different hand, shows more signs of haste and is unattributed except in pencil (to Bai) in a later (? cataloguing) hand, no doubt misled by the false attribution of the first version. Both contain all the verses, and the second also has copious dynamic markings. They have much in common: notably an important variation in the second half of verses 5 and 13, and an individual way of indicating the rhythm of the words on the reciting note – an asterisk is added after each syllable which has to be lengthened.

The same characteristics are found in a MS in the Biblioteka Uniwersytecka in Warsaw under the number PL Wu RM 6027.34 Bound into a collection of motets by Allegri and his 17th century contemporaries as N° 22 of Sammelband XVII, the title reads “Miserere del Sgre Maestro Gregorio Allegri, che si canta nella capella sistina il Giovedi santa”. It continues in German : “Von einem päbstlichen Sänger, mit allen Verzierungen und Andeutungen des Vortrags, aufgesetzt, wie es in der sixtinischen Kapelle von den päbstlichen Sängern gesungen wird” [notated by a Papal singer, with all ornaments and indications, as was sung by the Papal singers in the Sistine Chapel]. It lacks the last verse (‘Tunc acceptabis – Tunc imponent’), which may have been on another lost page.

Apart from a few slips, this Warsaw MS35 is virtually identical to the second version of Add 31525, and it is this latter version which seems to provide the most satisfactory text overall (see below). All three versions may derive from another source, or from several more or less parallel sources, because a number of German MSS have much in common with their readings.36

9. Alfieri 

The edition of Pietro Alfieri (1840) is particularly significant, as it is the only one printed by a Roman editor. His stated justification was to correct “inexact manuscript copies without any explanation” (“copie manuscritte inefatte, e prive di schiarimento”) which had already appeared. He may also have known about the Paris publication of 1838. For some reason, he published ‘incognito’, under the name of Alessandro Geminiani, and in Lugano, Switzerland, whereas all his other numerous publications appeared in Rome.37

Alfieri gives a coherent version of the abbellimenti from an unimpeachable source just two years after the Paris publication, with which it has much in common. But the main interest of his publication is not the notes, which compared to Add 31525 and its companion MSS seem a little old-fashioned, but in the explanations he provides, which break new ground in two important ways.

1 – Pitch

He states that the Papal Choir ‘converts G into B diapason’ (“E necessario poi sapere, che nella predetta Cappella il tono G si converte in B del Diapason”). This is the first ‘official’ mention of upward transposition, and accords with part of Mendelssohn’s testimony (from 1831), which quotes the first bar in B minor in his letter to his family of April 4th. Perhaps by the time he wrote to his old teacher Professor Zelter on June 16th, he had decided that, organ pitch at Rome being low, the piece was actually being sung in C minor. He reproduces the end of the first half of verse 3 in this key38 and continues:

The soprano [the famous castrato Mariano] intones the high C in a pure soft voice, allowing it to vibrate for a time, then slowly glides down ...


But he notes also:

The key in which they sing depends on the purity of the voices. The first day it was in B minor, the second and third in E minor, but each time they finished almost in B flat minor.39

The French composer Louis-Joseph-Ferdinand Herold also noted problems with tuning in 1815:

I noticed that the singers had gone down by at least a tone.40

In 1839, the composer Otto Nicolai heard Mariano again, but this time in B flat, and considerably modified:


Further corroboration comes from Spohr, who in 1817 also heard the Miserere in C minor (see above), and Herold, who recounted in 1815 : “I was surprised that the singers sang so high. The first chord appeared to be in C minor, the soprano beginning on G.”41

2 – The relation of Bai’s Miserere with that of Allegri

As well as printing Bai’s setting of the Miserere in the same volume (as Burney and numerous others had done), Alfieri shows that the same ornamentation formulae apply to both works. The abbellimenti, provided exclusively for the 4-part verses, are grouped at the end, with letters keying them into the appropriate places in the unadorned scores: endings A and B are for the Allegri, C, D and E for the Bai. Everything is clear for the Allegri, but errors creep in to placement and choice of the letters for Bai, perhaps confused by the different harmonies sometimes found in it.42 One thing that is crystal clear, however, is that the phrase which gives the top C with the upward transposition of a fourth – endings A and C which come at the end of the first part of the verse – is virtually identical for the two pieces ; and endings D and E are adaptations of B (D a bit longer, and E with the alto playing a more important rôle.)43

Even more revealingly, Alfieri goes on to say that Allegri’s and Bai’s versions were routinely combined in the same performance, and then explains how this was normally done:

... though I do not know the reason, for many years they have not sung in order the verses in each piece but in the following manner. On both days is sung for the first chorus the verse for 5 voices of Bai, with the verse for four voices as found in both compositions, excepting the verse Amplius of Bai, in place of which that of Allegri is sung ; and for the last the Tunc imponent of Bai for eight voices is repeated in that of Allegri.44

While this is hardly a model of lucidity, it seems to be saying that in a performance of Allegri’s Miserere, the first verse (a5) would be Bai’s, before using Allegri’s setting for the rest, except that the final verse (‘Tunc imponent’) would be sung twice, with Bai’s setting following (or perhaps preceding) Allegri’s. When Bai’s Miserere was sung, verse 3 Amplius lava me (a4) would be Allegri’s, before returning to Bai’s music for the rest. We note with surprise that this means that Allegri’s version of verse 1 was never performed, and that if you had not been told (and the version to be performed was never announced by name), you would have had to wait until verse 5 before you could tell which composition was being performed! There is no doubt that he is describing a scheme worked out and perfected over time. And it is this second version – Bai’s Miserere with Allegri’s verse 3 – which is preserved in Mustafà’s MS.45

Mendelssohn recorded something similar in his letter of June 16, 1831 to Professor Zelter:

The Miserere sung on the first day was that of Baini ... on the second they gave some pieces [sic] of Allegri and Bai,46 on Good Friday – all was Bai’s ... However it is quite immaterial which they sing, for the embellishments are pretty much the same in all three. Each chord has its embellishments, and thus very little of the original composition can be detected. 47

Herold, who went on all three days in 1815, got a bit upset about it. On Thursday he wrote :

I heard more or less the same Miserere as yesterday. It is said to be a different one, but in that case I want to know why I heard all the same passages? We’ll see tomorrow if it’s the same again …

On Friday he was convinced: …

This evening I am sure that it was the same one as yesterday’s.48

It seems, then, that for the Papal choir, the Bai was a kind of ‘perfected’ version of the Allegri, that they were, theoretically at least, endlessly interchangeable, and that between them, they provided all the combinations necessary for the three Misereres of Holy Week.49 As far as the public was concerned, whatever they heard was ‘the Allegri’. As Celler said:

Today it was his, but when it is not his, it is the same, we heard it. Ask three different people who were in the Sistine on three different days, they will all say they heard the one and only, the unique, the amazing Miserere.50

10. Mustafà’s MS

Vatican 375 represents the final version of the “Allegri Miserere” and no doubt, for Mustafà at least, the preferred version. Although the Vatican catalogue describes it as Bai ed Allegri Psalmus 50, it is, as noted above, all Bai except for verse 3, the first four-part verse. The presence of Allegri’s music here is like a formal bow to the origin of this extraordinary piece – the verse which gave rise to the most extravagant abbellimenti, and which made the reputation of the Miserere and the Papal Choir – finally brought to perfection in the endless variety of Bai’s setting. Mustafà rehearsed a first attempt of this version in 1884, with Moreschi as principal soloist, having instructed one of his colleagues, the contralto Innocenzo Pasquali

to write down [a version with] the ornaments, in order to assure and guarantee the real tradition.51

Work on it seems to have continued until finally, perhaps encouraged by Moreschi, he presented it to the choir on March 8, 1892, just over six weeks after finishing the MS. The Diario Sistino describes the moment:

The Maestro Director presents his afore-mentioned Miserere, a work which has cost him many years of patient toil in order to transmit to posterity the manner in which it came to be executed ; and modestly demands of his colleagues, turning particularly to those of some seniority who remember former performances, freely to disclose their opinion of the said work, saying that he was ready to remove those flaws and to make redress for those omissions into which he may have fallen. The senior members, and with them the whole College, approve of this valuable work by its illustrious Director ; and the maestro pro tempore [Moreschi] speaks on behalf of the most reverend College as a whole in thanking him for this work of his given to the Chapel.52

Dedicating the score to Pope Leo XIII, he wrote:

Miserere by Bai and Allegri. In which are noted the work’s traditional mode of performance in the Sistine by the Singers of the Papal Chapel. Owing to the unfortunate interruptions to the continuity of papal ceremonies in consequence of which much may be forgotten, I, the writer, after forty-five years passed amongst my dear colleagues in the service of God, the Supreme Pontiff and the Chapel, have thought to describe the above-mentioned traditions (in so far as I could), as much for those who must conduct as for the solo singers, so that after many years the effects which made the Sistine performance so renowned should not be lost.

And he added a postscript :

On behalf of the College of Papal Singers I beg the Supreme Pontiff that he should not permit the making of copies.53

The habit of secrecy dies hard.

This manuscript, the last in the series begun at the end of the 18th century, is also the logical end to that series, and provides answers to many problems. As will be seen in the musical examples below, the fioritures have much in common with the manuscripts of the early 18th century (vouching for the authenticity of those earlier MSS), and the dynamic markings are similar to, if much more precise and copious than, those found in BM Add 31525.54 On the question of pitch, it gives its imprimatur to upward transposition of a fourth from the written key of G minor as the ideal, being clearly marked ‘Il tono una quarta sopra’ at the beginning. The abbellimenti in the first half of the 4-part verses thus include a high C. One particular aspect which makes it more interesting musically is that the abbellimenti in this version are more evenly spread amongst the voices: notably, apart from the ‘high C moment’, the two sopranos in the 4-part verses often engage in a real dialogue of equals.

It also resolves the problem of the chanted verses, by printing one long breve (on d) for the first words of every even-numbered verse. As noted above the Miserere, when it is sung at the end of Tenebræ – as opposed to when it is chanted as the first psalm at Lauds on Maundy Thursday – is extra-liturgical: perhaps it was felt that this precluded the use of a psalm-tone. There may also have been practical reasons : 31525 and many of its related MSS state ‘il populo risponde l'altro verso’, and various other MSS use the term ‘in coro’ for these verses, although I have only found one (Basle kk XII 22:3) which actually gives the note d, as Mustafà does (which of course becomes g when transposed up a fourth). Alfieri did not even deign to call these verses music:

Finally it should be noted that the verse of the psalm which is not sung should be read [leggesi] sotto voce by the whole choir on the tone the singers end on55

although it is the kind of reading that needs the pitch of a note. It may be that a separate group of less expert singers, standing in the back of the choir space in the chapel, behind the soloists, were responsible for these verses ; in any case, use of a monotone would certainly simplify matters.

Mustafà's version includes examples of all the different kinds of embellishments already seen in earlier sources, notably short appoggiaturas, and the preliminary gruppetto – a kind of filled-in double appoggiatura resembling a turn. Mendelssohn was

struck with the meaning they attach to the word Appoggiatura. If the melody goes from C to D or from C to E they sing thus:


And this they call an appoggiatura. Whatever they may choose to call it, the effect is most disagreeable, and it must require long habit not to be discomposed by this strange practice which reminds me very much of our old women at home in church: moreover the effect is the same.56

He is talking here of the “short appoggiatura” (sometimes called an acciaccatura). The imprecision of the grace note accords with the version of Recueil 32 (see examples above), where its exact pitch is only hinted at. This is clearly not an appoggiatura in the accepted sense – an ornament with an harmonic and/or melodic function – but rather the notation of a vocal gesture (which could be described as a described as a ‘sob’) used for reasons both technical (carrying the chest voice up into the head) and expressive (an emotional exaggeration). Although Mendelssohn transcribes it with a cross-stroke, few of the Miserere MSS use this, and then unsystematically.57

The preliminary gruppetto is the most characteristic stylised ornament of MS 375 occurring, for example, ten times in the verse ‘Amplius lava me’ (see below and below) if we count the bass ornament on the word ‘peccato’ as the same thing, imperfectly written out. It is a standard Italian vocal ornament (found in most 19th century singing methods – Garaudé, Duprez, Concone – all of which, of course, are derived from Italian models), but here has the particularity of nearly always following a written-out portamento.58 It is interesting that the only standardised ornament signs in 375 are the trill and the turn – all the other embellishments are written out in full.59

Most strikingly, Mustafà gives an extraordinary number of indications of portamenti, something found in no other manuscript, if we except the ‘parallel fifths’ moments that so shocked Spohr and are found in the Paris MS. Perhaps, writing his manuscript specifically for the attention of singers rather than for the archive, Mustafà marked much of what was normally left out. Stendhal would not have believed it possible:

Tradition has taught the Papal singers certain effects of portamento which are indescribably beautiful, yet which it is impossible to convey in the written score.60

The painter Ingres was particularly sensitive to their effect, which he described as follows:

Imagine a celestial voice, all alone, as powerful as a glass harmonica as it slips and passes imperceptibly from one tone to the next.61

Samuel Morse, painter and inventor of the eponymous code, also noticed this:

The Miserere is the composition of the celebrated Allegri, and for giving the effect of wailing and lamentation, without injury to harmony, it is one of the most perfect of compositions. The manner of sustaining a strain of concord by new voices, now swelling high, now gradually dying away, now sliding imperceptibly into discord and suddenly breaking into harmony, is admirable.62

And Spohr noticed particularly:

The delicate attack on a new chord while the previous one is still fading away ... is something so unique and individual that one is irresistibly drawn to it.63

There are even indications of portamento between two notes which are the same (e.g. the 2nd tenor part in the 4th bar of verse 20 ‘Tunc acceptabis’ – see below), which can only mean that the voice is supposed to momentarily leave the note to re-attack it with the others, thus ‘sliding imperceptibly into discord and suddenly breaking into harmony’.

Finally, we should note the extraordinary effect indicated in the middle of the same verse where the singers are required to make a kind of ‘collective swoop’ at the end of the word ‘holocausta’, no doubt onto an anticipation of the C minor chord which launches the 8-part section at ‘tunc imponent’.

11. Mustafà and Tradition

What this manuscript does not, and cannot, resolve, are certain questions concerning the evolution of the traditions of performance over time.

  • Which generation of singers started to add abbellimenti and what did they sound like at that time ?
  • Were they the natural result of singers amusing themselves when they had licence to do so, given that the Miserere was always sung by unaccompanied soloists in the Papal Chapel, who elected their director from among their number and thus effectively ran themselves?
  • If so, did they have models and if so, which ones? The embellishments seem to owe little to Conforto, Della Casa or Bovicelli. They rather seem to grow out of little baroque decoration formulæ strung together, with a certain amount of chromatic adventurousness added. Mendelssohn noted such things in the Papal Choir’s performances of Palestrina, calling them
             little ornaments and trills such as were popular at the beginning of the last century.64
  • How much did the singers modify the abbellimenti according to current taste over the centuries? Were they aware of the writings of Tosi, Mancini, Lorenzano and Galeazzi? How relevant did they feel them to be?
  • To what extent did they apply similar techniques in other music they sang?
  • When did they start the dizzying rise in pitch? Was it anything to do with confusion about chiavette, or simply a vocal challenge?
  • Would it be true to say that the embellishments only started to be formalized on paper towards the end of the 18th century when the improvisatory skills of the singers started to diminish? If so, how was the tradition passed on before that?
  • What is the significance of the differences between the many 19th century sources? Was it a question of the identity of the soloist ? If so, how much licence did he still have to vary and re-invent?
  • When did the exaggerated interpretative elements (the crescendi and diminuendi, sudden changes of speed and atmosphere...), already attested in the 18th century, start?
  • When, how and why did the very personal manner of declaiming the text arise? Was it influenced by contemporary practice in recitative? If so, how?
  • Were all these things initiatives of individual singers, or were some imposed by a director who was not one of the performers?
  • How did the function of the director evolve over time?

There is still much work to do, and I hope to return to these questions at a later date.

12. Conclusion

Apart from this manuscript’s interest and status as a witness to the final evolution of the ‘Sistine Chapel Allegri Miserere’, and as a tool for solving some of the historical problems related to that unique work (or rather, series of works), it has another, even more important, value – the plethora of indications for performance it provides: the precise placement of the embellishments and fioriture, accents and phrasing marks, extensive dynamic indications, and its widespread use of slurs to indicate portamenti. It is also very talkative, with detailed instructions of interpretation: ‘sostenuto molto, dolcissimo, portando la voce, ondeggiato, sensibile, terminando con una bella emissione di voce...’ This is the list from verse 1…

This is a manuscript made by a singer for other singers, and what it indicates are essentially vocal gestures which start with the universal vocal act of supporting the sound on the column of air and then working towards extreme expression and communication. As such, these ‘ways and means’ are recognisably in the mainstream of the aims and techniques of 19th century singing in general, as witnessed both by the instructions found in the many published Methods, and by recordings from the end of the century – especially those involving slow, ‘pathetic’ music. By 1892, the Miserere was fast becoming an anachronism, with both its politico-religious world under attack, and its means of expression – the voice of the castrato, a hangover from another age – fast disappearing.65 The sound of the castrato was very particular: Mendelssohn described one singer as having ‘a pure, soft voice’, and another’s performance of a psalm as being ‘executed with the purest, cleanest and most even intonation’, but described the sound of them in the choir as ‘sometimes repulsively shrill’.66

Others were even less complimentary. Berlioz described the sound as being like

'the fantastic harmonies of an æolian harp hung from the top of a leafless tree’ which will give you ‘a powerful access of spleen combined with an inclination to suicide.'67

He was far from the only writer to make this unexpected comparison, even if few others mention suicide in the same breath! In fact it is difficult to know if he is commenting more about the sound or the effect of portamenti, but it is worth noting a current definition of the sound of the æolian harp:

The sound is random, depending on the strength of the wind passing over the strings, and can range from a barely audible hum to a loud scream.68

Despite that, it is clear from recorded evidence that the 19th century castrato’s world of singing technique and taste was not noticeably different to that of singers such as Adelina Patti, Eugenia Burzio and Nellie Melba. I would argue that despite its particular provenance, this manuscript not only tells us about the Miserere, but opens a window into the generality of vocal expression and technique at the end of the 19th century.

Annexe: Abbellimenti in the Miserere: Verse 3

1. Pietro Alfieri: Il Salmo Miserere posto in musica da Gregorio Allegri e da Tommaso Bai, Publicato cogli Abbellimenti per la prima volta (1840)

Option A for the end of the first half of Verse 3:


Option B for the end of the second half of Verse 3 [cf. Paris alternative version]:


2. Paris Recueil 32 [Pn : D. 14499]: see above.

3. British Library Ms Add 31525, second version, verse 3:

    

4. Mendelssohn’s transcription: see above.

5. Mustafà MS Vat. 375 – transcription of verse 3 (and see below) :


Less ‘extreme’ abbellimenti were also added to the 5-part verses. For the version of verse 1 in the Paris MS see above. For comparison, here is the version from BM 31525, which shows clearly a certain evolution, particularly towards the end.

Finally, here follows the first three and last four pages (verses 1–3 and 20) of Mustafà’s MS Vatican 375.




Author’s Note

This article represents the one I may well have prepared had I known in advance that it would be for me to talk about this manuscript at the 2009 York Conference on ‘Singing Music from 1500 to 1900’. Unfortunately the musical examples, given there by the excellent singers of the music department, cannot be reproduced here. But here is a link to an extract from the Miserere recorded by my Ensemble William Byrd in 2000 for Naïve [E 8846] from a transcription by Hugh Keyte.

© Graham O’Reilly (2010)


  1. Junker’s Musikalisches Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1784 (Freyburg, 1784): ‘Keine Musik hat je mehr Eindruck auf das Herz – keine, die großem Wirkungen, die die Alten von ihrer Musik behaupteten, gewissermaßen begreiflich gemacht, keine, je die Seele zu den Empfindungen des tiefsten Schauders … als dieß Miserere. Das was man bey dieser Musik empfindet, und empfinden muß, hat man noch nie in der Welt empfunden … Kurz diese Musik ist die einzige ihrer Art‘.  Quoted in Julius Amann: Allegris Miserere und die Aufführungspraxis in der Sixtina (Regensburg, 1935), 84.
  2. F. Cramer: Magazin der Musik, First year, Volume 2 (Hamburg, 1783), quoted in Amann, 83–4 : ‘Aber nie kann man eine natürlichere, harmonischere, entzückendere Music hören, als das Miserere … Es wird von keinem Instrumente begleitet, aber ist so voll, so melodisch, daß es selbst aus den Noten von keinem nachgeahmt werden kann … Bey der Dämmerung des Abends, bey ausgelöschten Lichtern, bey einer feyerlichen ungewöhnlichen Stille Italiener hebt dieser Klagegesang an. Man vergißt bey diesen melodischen Tönen des Erde, wird von der Zeit in die Unendlichkeit entrückt, und glaubt die Chöre der Seligen zu hören‘.
  3. Letter to F. Hauser, quoted in Amann, 39: ‘[Miserere] in höchst langsamer Bewegung in langaustönenden Accorden, anschwellend und abnehmend in der Stärke, fast in völliger Dunkelheit gesungen’.
  4. Pictures from Italy, ed. David Paroissien (New York, Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1974) 202, quoted in Richard Boursy : ‘The Mystique of the Sistine Chapel Choir in the Romantic Era’, Journal of Musicology, XI/3 (Summer 1993), 289. This article is another version of Chapter 2 of Boursy’s thesis, Historicism and Composition: Giuseppe Baini, the Sistine Chapel Choir, and Stile Antico Music in the first half of the 19th century (Yale, 1994), afterwards identified as Boursy, Historicism and Composition. Quotations from the article are identified simply as Boursy.
  5. James Jackson Jarves: Italian Sights and Papal Principles Seen through American Spectacles (New York, Harper, 1856), 268 (in Boursy, 289).
  6. Burney: The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771), 276–7. About the last phrase, see above.
  7. Mary Shelley: Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842 and 1843 (London, Edward Moxon, 1844), Vol 2, 230–31.
  8. The Memoirs of François René Vicomte de Chateaubriand, trans. Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (London, Freemantle, 1902) vol 5, 36–7 (in Boursy, 298). The author, French ambassador to the Vatican in 1829, conflates his artistic sensibility with nostalgia about the power of the Papal States, then under serious threat from the coming revolutions of 1830.
  9. Italian Journey: Being Excerpts from the Pre-Victorian Diary of James Skene of Rubislaw (London, International Publishing Co., 1937), 102 (quoted in Boursy, 291).
  10. Ludovic Celler [a nom de plume for Ludovic Leclerc]: La Semaine Sainte au Vatican ; Etude musicale et pittoresque (Paris, 1867). ‘Les plus ardents parmi les curieux étaient arrivés à midi, ils avaient fait queue jusqu’à 2 heures ; là ils étaient entrés dans la Sixtine, et avaient de nouveau attendu jusqu’au 4 heures. Les Lamentations commencèrent, et durèrent jusqu’à 6 heures et demie ; l’attente était bien longue, mais on supporte tout pour le Miserere d’Allegri, car c’est lui que chacun veut entendre, et pas d’autre.
  11. Jarves (Italian Sights, 224, quoted in Boursy, 321) heard two, and Andrea Adami’s Osservazioni per ben regolare il coro della Capella pontificia (1711) confirms that it was normal practice in principle. Mendelssohn heard one.
  12. Festa, however, sets verses 1, 5, 9, 13 and 17 for 4 voices, and 3, 7, 11, 15 and 19 for 5, the opposite of Allegri’s setting.
  13. Mendelssohn quoted another explanation from the little book he had acquired ‘which explains the sense of all the solemnities’ : ‘This noise is symbolical of the tumult made by the Hebrews in seizing Christ’. He goes on : ‘It may be so, but it sounded exactly like the commotion in the pit of the theatre, when the beginning of a play is delayed, or when it is finally condemned’. In Mendelssohn’s Letters, edited and translated by G. Selden-Goth (London, Elek, 1946), 140.
    Ludovic Celler had yet another one, even more ingenious : ‘In the old days, when the bells were silent [between the end of Mass on Maundy Thursday and Easter Day], people were called to the Offices by wooden clappers ; people will tell you that the noise made by the cardinals after the Miserere is an echo of the noise of the clappers, to remind you of the despair that meant that there was no other way to communicate.’  [Anciennement, on frappait des tablettes de bois pour appeler aux offices les jours où les cloches s’abstenaient à sonner, et l’on prétend que le bruit que les cardinaux font après le Miserere est un souvenir de l’agitation des claquettes, et rappeler le désespoir qui interdisait tout autre moyen de communication.]
  14. See above for more on the relationship between the two works.
  15. This original version is reproduced in the preface to John Rutter’s recent OUP edition, and also in the introduction to Ben Byram-Wigfield’s edition (1996), available at http://www.ancientgroove.co.uk/essays/AllegriBook.pdf. Both also include a transcription of the original version of verse 3 (a4) from Vatican MS 206.
  16. 185 appears to be a refinement of another version, found in MS 263. More details in Byram-Wigfield at http://www.ancientgroove.co.uk/essays/sources.html
  17. Burney, 275–6.
  18. The whole quotation, the source of most of Burney’s description (he never heard the Miserere performed, as he visited Rome only in the autumn), is as follows: ‘L’ultimo Verso del Benedictus và terminato, quando è smorzata l’ultima candela dell’Altare, e l’ultima Torcia della Balaustra, ed immediatemente da i sue Soprano Anziani si dee intonare la ripetizione dell’ Antifona Traditor autem, che deve durare fin tanto, che il Papa sceso dal Soglio siasi inginocchiato avanti il Faldistorio, ed allora il Signor Maestro deve far cenno alli due Soprani Anziani, che subito intoneranno il Verso Christus Factus est nel qual tempo dovrà egli far preparare i Cantori eletti, seconda la lista, par cantare il Miserere a due Cori di Gregorio Allegri libro 88. a carte 49. Avvertendo di non farlo cominciare, se non avuto il cenno dal Maestro di Ceremonie dopo ce Sua Santità averà detto secretamente il Pater noster. Avverta pure il Signor Maestro che l’ultimo verso del Salmo termina a due Cori, e però farà la Battuta Adagio, per finirlo Piano, smorzando a poco a poco, l’Armonia.’ It should also be noted that Recueil 32 (see above) gives, in an otherwise straight version of the last 9-part verse, two interesting dynamics for the final word ‘vitulos’ : p at vi-, f at –tu- : the better to prepare a long decrescendo on the final chord?
  19. ‘You have often heard of the famous Miserere in Rome, which is so greatly prized that the performers in the chapel are forbidden on pain of excommunication to take away a single part of it, to copy it or to give it to anyone. But we have it already. Wolfgang has written it down and we would have sent it to Salzburg in this letter, if it were not necessary for us to be there to perform it. But the manner of performance contributes more to its effect than the composition itself. So we shall bring it home with us.’ The Letters of Mozart & his Family, translated and edited by Emily Anderson, London, Macmillan (1938) vol 1, 187, in Boursy, 282.
    Mozart’s sister Marianne provided more detail in 1792, although as she was not present, the added details are hearsay : ‘On Wednesday afternoon they accordingly went at once to the Sistine Chapel to hear the famous Miserere. And as according to tradition it was forbidden under ban of excommunication to make a copy of it from the papal music, the son undertook to hear it and then copy it out. And so it came about that when he came home, he wrote it out, and the next day he went back again, holding his copy in his hat, to see if he had got it right or not. But a different Miserere was sung. However on Good Friday the first was repeated again. After he had returned home he made a correction here and there, then it was ready. It soon became known in Rome, and he had to sing it at the clavier at a concert. The castrato Christofori, who sang it in the chapel, was present.’ Reproduced in Otto Deutsch, Mozart, a Documentary Biography, translated by Eric Blom, Peter Branscombe and Jeremy Noble (Stanford UP, 1965, 459) in Boursy, 282–3.
    One supposes that Mozart copied one version of the 5-part verses and one of the 4-part ones, verses 1 and 3 for example, although it is by no means sure that the singers did not introduce variations in different verses. One also wonders if he noted down verse 20 for both choirs. In any case, the image of Mozart singing it while accompanying himself at the keyboard should give us pause!
    Byrom-Wigfield suggests that Burney might have seen Mozart’s version, but this seems somewhat fanciful: although Burney met Mozart later in the same year, it was merely a chance encounter at a concert; there is no reason to suppose that Mozart had his copy with him, and if they had subsequently talked together, Burney would surely have written it up.
  20. Lors de la 1ère invasion d’Italie par Bonaparte, MM. Mesplet, Monge, Kreutzer, Denon &c. furent envoyés à Rome en qualité de Commissaires chargés des objets d’Arts : Mr Mesplet, s’étant fait conduire à deux petites chambres qui contenaient les Archives Pontificales, ordonna qu’on y apposât immédiatement les scellés : Tout demeura intact, et au départ des Français, Mr Mesplet remit les clefs de ce précieux dépôt. La Cour de Rome sut un gré infini à notre compatriote de sa conduite scrupuleuse, dont il lui fut délivré une attestation légale. Le Maître de Chapelle de Pie VII,  Mr Baini, fit don à Mr Mesplet d’un petit manuscrit, légué par lui à la Bibliothèque du Conservatoire, et qui contient un recueil authentique des morceaux chantés dans la Chapelle Sixtine, durant la Semaine Sainte. It is not clear to what extent we can take this account at face value. See .
  21. He may also have worked as an arranger for Cherubini, as several of that composer's works were later adapted to the same unusual format as his Haydn arrangements, e.g. the overture to his opera 'Les Deux Journées'. The arrangements are unusual in that the violins really are merely accompaniment and are not used melodically at all.
  22. It is now catalogued in the Music Department of the Bibliothèque Nationale as D.14499.
  23. Mendelssohn Letters, 147–8, and see also above.
  24. Ce morceau jouit d’une immense célébrité dans le monde Chrétien: On sait que, indépendamment de ses grandes beautés, ce Miserere, ainsi que les autres Cantiques de cette nature, emprunte une partie de son effet puissant à l’ensemble des cérémonies de la Chapelle Pontificale. On cite même, à cette occasion un fait assez curieuse: ce Miserere, pendant fort longtemps, ne fut communiqué à personne, et il était sévèrement défendu d’en donner ou d’en prendre copie; cependant, vers la fin du 18ème siècle, un Prince, qui avait entendu ce morceau avec une vive émotion, obtint du Saint Père qu’il lui serait expédié une copie du fameux Miserere ...
  25. Enfin en 1821, d’après l’ordre de Pie VII, Giuseppe Baini, Maître de la Chapelle Sixtine, composa avec grand succès un dernier Miserere ; et, depuis, on se borne aux trois de Allegri, de Bai, et de Baini.
  26. Rodolphe Kreutzer, dedicatee of Beethoven’s eponymous Sonata, was obviously the more famous musician; but perhaps the music of the Sistine Chapel, like that of Beethoven in fact, was outside his range of interests.
  27. Amann, 26 and 28–9. Baini’s testimony is in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (1825) of GLP Sievers. Amann casts doubt on Baini’s story, pointing out that there were plenty of other MSS of the Allegri in the archive, but perhaps there were no others with the all-important abbellimenti.
  28. An interesting sideline to this story concerns a possible role for Baini in Alfieri’s publication of 1840. Was he perhaps provoked by the appearance of the 1838 Paris edition of his lost manuscript into organising one of his own, collated by the Vatican house publisher Alfieri but, no doubt for some reason of Vatican politics, published secretly (see above and n.37) – under an assumed name and in another city? It seems inconceivable that Alfieri could have gained access to the abbellimenti published as appendices without Baini’s knowledge; moreover, those abbellimenti are very similar to those in Mesplet’s MS (p.11, alternative version of the end) which is a minimum of 44 years older. Could it be that Alfieri’s publication – a somewhat impractical mixture of “standard” versions and appendices – reproduces the material Baini used to recreate the Miserere from memory and teach it to the new singers in 1815? Given that he had the original versions available for use, he would merely have had to notate those appendices and show where to use them – easier and more time-efficient than copying it all out again (see also n. 42). And publishing such a version would have had the added advantage of merely confirming an old edition already in the public domain, leaving the 'mystery and magic' of the current singers’ execution, perhaps by now resembling more BM Add 31525 et al., intact. In 1834, Baini had showed a copy of the Miserere to the journalist Mainzer, but would not allow him to take a copy of it (Joseph Mainzer, “La Chapelle Sistine à Rome” in Gazette Musicale de Paris, 1834). One might imagine that either he had a change of heart by 1840, or else was already keeping open the possibility of having it published himself.
  29. Nous donnons ici le Miserere d’Allegri, tel qu’il a été publié à Londres, en 1771, par Burney; mais nous y joindrons une sorte de Duplicata, pièce infiniment curieuse, dont voici une courte Notice... In fact Mesplet’s version of verse 1 follows Vat 185 more closely than it does Burney.
  30. Parmi ces morceaux de Musique consacrée, figure le Miserere d’Allegri, conforme au texte original de l’Auteur. Nous joignons ici ce texte original, écrit sans barres de mesure et comme le plain-chant; et de plus, une autre pièce non moins précieuse: c’est le même Miserere, mesuré, et avec les fioritures successivement introduites et conservées par la tradition. Nous pensons qu’on nous saura gré d’avoir réuni ces documents, et de les faire connaître.
  31. Da intonirten fünf Solostimmen des Dreyklang von Cmoll in einer schönen 5 stimmigen Lage, zart und rein, wie eine Harmonie aus einer andern Welt. Nie hat ein einfacher Accord einen so gewaltigen Eindruck auf mich gemacht! Aber nur zu bald wurde man erinnert, dab es eine irdische, und zwar eine, von Italienern gesungene Musik sey, die man höre: denn gleich im zweiten Takte wurde das Ohr von den fürchterlichsten Quintenfolgen zerrissen ... Ich würde es Niemand, ja meinen eigenen Ohren nicht geglaubt haben, dab man so in der sixtinischen Kapelle singen könne, wenn ich nicht dieselbe Stelle später noch viermal wiederholen gehört hätte. Ist das vielleicht die geheimnisvolle Art der Execution durch Tradition immer von Einem zum Andern fortgeerbt habe und nur diesem Sängerchor bekannt sey? Doch nein! So können nur neuere Italiener singen, die wol Sinn für Melodie, aber gar keinen für Harmonie haben. The Musical Journeys of Louis Spohr, 164–5, cited in Amann, 47–8. Note that he records here an upward transposition of a fourth (see above for more on transposition).
  32. Letters, 148. They also feature in the version ‘come si dove eseguire’ of the Improperia in Recueil 32, albeit without the grace notes. There are other detail differences, but in general Mendelssohn’s testimony gives another confirmation of the authenticity of that MS’s contents. Note that this piece too has been transposed up a fourth.
  33. It later passed to Julian Marshall, who sold it, with many other MSS, to the British Library in 1881.
  34. It was formerly in the Musikalisches Institut bei des Universität Breslau – now Wroclaw – under the call mark Mf. 5132, and is part of the large collection of manuscripts and transcriptions assembled by the German musicologist Emil Bohn (1839–1909), in whose hand it probably is. Bohn was awarded honorary memberships of both the Accademia Filarmonica of Florence and the Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome towards the end of his life, so it is likely that he copied this MS in Rome, and/or acquired its source there.
  35. Verses 1 and 3 are transcribed in Amann, 50–52.
  36. Among them are MSS in the Universitäts-Bibliothek in Basel, the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden, the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, and two in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. They have similar titles : "Miserere di Gregorio Allegri con tutti i quelli ornamenti come si canta capella Sistina nei giorni Mercoledi Giovedi e Venerdi della settimana santa" (Basle) or the equivalent in German: Miserere von Allegri. Von einem päpstlichen Sänger, mit allen Vierzungen und Andeutungen des Vortrags aufgesetzt, wie es jetzt in der Sixtinischen Capelle gesungen wird" (Munich and Vienna). For the variants between them and Warsaw, see Amann, 58–61.
  37. If his goal was to hide his responsibility for it from the Vatican, he seems to have succeeded, at least until 1913: the entry under his name in that year’s Catholic Encyclopaedia includes all his publications except this one. For Baini’s possible implication in this edition, see n.28.
  38. It was this action which confused later editors, and indirectly led to the pot-pourri which passes for the 4-part verses in ‘Allegri’s Miserere’ these days. This comedy of errors and obfuscation is succinctly described in the preface to John Rutter’s edition; here is a brief summary. This famous “musical moment” is an invention by the 19th century music historian William Rockstro who, for the first edition of Grove’s famous Dictionary in 1878, wrote a long article on the Miserere. To complete it, he cobbled together a version out of bits from Burney, Alfieri and, crucially, the phrase with the top C in Mendelssohn’s letter. One supposes he didn’t for a moment anticipate the use to which it would be put, and to give him credit, it was a laudable attempt to give his readers a flavour of the piece as it was performed. Unfortunately, apart from “improving” Mendelssohn’s phrase (including turning the appoggiaturas into minims, and making the top C too short) he made two fundamental errors – he put it in the wrong key, and he put it in the wrong place: it needed to be a 4th lower, and placed at the end of the first half of the verse (instead of the extract from Alfieri), not at the end of the second half.
  39. Letters, 141–142.
  40. J’ai remarqué que les chanteurs ont au moins baissé d’un ton. From Lettres d’Italie, suivies du journal et autres écrits 1804–1833, ed. Hervé Audéon (Weinberg, Musik-Edition Lucie Galland, 2008), 217
  41. J’ai été étonné que les chanteurs entonnassent si haut. Le 1er accord m’a paru être en ut mineur, le soprano commençant par sol. Ibid. 217.
  42. It could also be that, if the abbellimenti printed by Alfieri came from Baini’s version written down from memory for the singers of 1815, as suggested in note 28, the indications concerning the Allegri were taken directly from Baini’s source text, whereas those for the Bai were improvised – badly – by Alfieri.
  43. For A and B, see above.
  44. ignorandone il motivo, da molti anni non si cantano con ordine i versetti in ciascuna composizione, ma nel modo seguente. Si canta sempre in ciascuno de' due giorni per primo Cori chè è il versetto a cinque voci quello di Bai; rimanendo il versetto a quattro ossia Concertino come si ritrova nell'una, e nell'altra composizione, eccetto il versetto Amplius de Bai, invece di cui si canta quello di Allegri; e per ultimo il tunc imponent a otto voce di Bai ripetesi in quello di Allegri.  (English translation from copy in BL, copied at “Swift's Court, 15 Castle Street, Liverpool” during the 1860's). According to Boursy (Historicism and Composition, 43) the Sistine choir routinely sang mass movements by two or even more composers during the same office, so the combining of different Miserere’s would not have been a particularly revolutionary concept.
  45. Bai’s Miserere, like Allegri’s, was modified at least once in its lifetime, Burney’s version being more elaborate in verses 7, 9, 13 and 17 than most other MSS (e.g. a Santini version now in Pn D.670). As the embellishments in Mustafa’s MS are based on this simplified version, it seems safe to assume that it superseded Burney’s.
  46. This contradicts what he wrote to his family on April 4th, which reads: ‘I heard [on Thursday] ... some portions of the Miserere were taken from Baini, but the greater part was from Allegri’ (125). Perhaps it was a simple confusion between the two similar names of Bai and Baini. There is no evidence of Baini’s Miserere ever being combined with any other, although there is no intrinsic reason why it could not have been.
  47. Letters, 140. None of Alfieri’s endings fit into Baini’s Miserere, which is in any case in 10 parts throughout,  but the influence of Bai can often be heard in Baini’s setting, and the last verse is virtually identical, although expanded into 10 parts. Boursy provides a transcription of it (from Vat MS 483) in Part II of his Historicism and Composition.
  48. J’ai entendu à peu de chose près le même Miserere qu’hier. On dit que c’en est un autre; en ce cas je demanderai pourquoi j’ai trouvé tous les mêmes passages? nous verrons demain si ce sera la même chose … ce soir je suis bien persuadé que c’était le même qu’hier.  Lettres d’Italie, 218. As 1815 was the first Holy Week performance by the choir following the Pope’s return to Rome (see above), it may have been true that, exceptionally, they sang the same Miserere three times in a row that year.
  49. Performance of Baini’s version, which Mendelssohn described as ‘a composition devoid of life and strength’, may not have long survived his death in 1844. Other combinations of Allegri and Bai are recorded also, for example that published in Rome in 1870 as part of a large collection of Holy Week music by Palestrina and Victoria, which consists of the five-part verses of Allegri and the four-part verses of Bai, together with Allegri’s last verse. This is similar to one reported by GLP Sievers in 1821 (“Die päpstliche Kapelle zu Rom” in Allgemeine Musikalisches Zeitung 1825, in Amann 29–30).
  50. Aujourd’hui c’était lui, mais lorsque ce n’est pas lui, c’est la même chose, on l’a toujours entendu. Demandez à trois personnes qui ont été à la Sixtine trois jours différents, toutes les trois ont toujours entendu le seul, l’unique, le prodigieux Miserere (Celler, La Semaine Sainte au Vatican, 43).
    Celler also says (103) that from 1821, Baini’s version eventually superseded Bai’s (‘a fini par écarter celui de Bai’). This surprising statement could perhaps be understood if Celler had ceased to distinguish Bai’s Miserere from Allegri’s because they were so intertwined as to be thought one and the same – an understandable error if they were indistinguishable until verse 5. It should be noted however that Celler appears to contradict himself, having noted elsewhere (46) that the choice is between Allegri, Bai and Baini, with occasionally one by the current maestro ('quelquefois cependant un de maître de chapelle en exercice').
    Any new Misereres were usually tried out on Maundy Thursday, a practice still current in 1866, when A.W. Ambros took the opportunity to poke some fun at Mustafà : ‘On Wednesday of Holy Week 1866, Allegri’s Miserere was sung, on the Friday Bai’s, and on the Thursday a new Miserere by the Abbate Mustapha, the old soprano of the chapel – a prophet on the right, a prophet on the left, and Mustapha in the middle… It gives a tragicomic impression, this long glorious sequence of Palestrinas, a triumphal impression of the spirit and noble beauty, a glorious sequence brought to a close in the tottering form of fat wobbly Mustapha.’ (Am Mittwoch der Charwoche 1866 wurde Allegri’s, am Charfreitag Bai’s Miserere gesungen, am Donnerstag ein neues Miserere von Abbate Mustapha, dem alten Sopran des Kapelle. ‘Prophete rechts, Prophete links, Mustapha in der Mitten’… Es macht einen tragikomischen Eindruck, die lange, glorreiche Reihe des Palestriner, einen wahren Triumphzug des Geistes und der Edelstein Schönheit, durch die nach wakkelnde Gestalt des alten dicken Mustapha beschlossen zu sehen! Ambros, Bunte Blätter, Leipzig 1872, S. 31, in Amann, 32–3). Ambros seems to be amusing himself principally with Mustafà’s shape, which was apparently almost perfectly spherical. According to Karl von Hase (Erinnerungen aus Italien, Leipzig, 1890) his Miserere had previously been heard in 1859 (Amann, section B, n.25).
  51. Diario Sistino 294, fol. 14r, in Nicholas Clapton, Moreschi and the Voice of the Castrato (London, 2008), 115.
  52. Diario Sistino 294, fol. 9v–10v, Ibid, 130, translated by the author. Given the somewhat poisonous atmosphere which seems to have pervaded the Vatican in general and the choir in particular at this period, graphically described by Clapton, Mustafà’s appeal for help from his senior colleagues may not have been entirely sincere.
  53. Translation by Clapton, 131.
  54. The Paris MS has no dynamics at all (except in the last verse a 9 – see n.18), and Alfieri very few, but both the series of MSS related to BL Add 31525 and MS 375 show what was undoubtedly common practice : many commentators speak of dynamic contrasts, following Burney’s mention of ‘swelling and diminishing the sounds altogether’ (see above). Mendelssohn is perhaps the most eloquent: ‘The best voices are reserved for the Miserere, which is sung with the greatest variety of effect, the voices swelling and dying away and rising again from the quietest piano to the full strength of the choir. No wonder that it excites deep emotion in every listener.’ (Letters, 138); and Herold wrote: ‘The effect of this music really is a function of its execution ; the pianos and the fortes are very important for this effect; the swelling sounds, either held for a long time or suddenly cut off, are also very fine.’ (L’effet de cette musique dépend vraiment de l’exécution ; les p. et les f. entrent pour beaucoup dans l’effet ; les sons enflés, soutenus longtems, ou coupés, sont aussi fort bien). Lettres d’Italie, 218.
  55. Finalemente è da avvertirsi che il versetto del Salmo che non si canta, leggesi sottovoce da tutto il Coro nel tono che si lascia da cantori. Germaine de Staël, in her novel Corinne ou l’Italie, devotes a whole chapter to Holy Week in Rome, which she visited in 1805. Of the chanted verses, she wrote ‘The miserere ... is a psalm composed of verses sung antiphonally in very different styles. Heavenly music is heard alternating with with recitative murmured in muffled, almost harsh, tones; it would seem to be the response of hard nature to sensitive hearts, life’s reality come to blight and deny the wishes of generous souls. When the sweet chorus resumes, we take heart again. But when the recited verse resumes, a cold sensation seizes us once more, not from terror but from the discouraging of enthusiasm.’ Translated by Avriel Goldberger (1987) 178, in Boursy, 302.  
  56. Letters, 143–4. Such effects are common in the singing of Moreschi, as recorded in 1902 and 1904.
  57. In Mustafa’s Miserere it appears in both forms in the score and the parts, sometimes in reference to the same note; it is clear that for Mustafà the use or otherwise of the cross-stroke has little or no significance, except perhaps that the stroke makes the execution clearer for the singers – most of them are found in the parts.
  58. It is also common in BM Add 31525 and its relatives, but unaccompanied by indications of portamenti.
  59. There are also places where Mustafa wrote out in full in a separate part the turn he indicated by a sign in the full score, another example of the pedagogical nature of the parts seen in n.57.
  60. Stendhal: Life of Mozart, in Lives of Haydn, Mozart and Metastasio, translated and edited by Richard N. Coe (London, Calder & Boyars, 1972), 174–5 (in Boursy, 299).
  61. Letter to M. Forestier, Holy Week, 1807, in Ingres raconté par lui-même et par ses amis, ed. Pierre Cailler (Geneva, Vésenaz, 1947), 118–9, (in Boursy, 319). Does a glass harmonica sound anything like an æolian harp? See also above.
  62. Samuel Morse: His Letters and Journals, ed. Edward Lind Morse (Boston, 1914) vol 1, 345–6 (in Boursy, 320).
  63. The Musical Journey of Louis Spohr, translated by Henry Pleasants (University of Oklahoma Press, 1961) 190, in Boursy, 306.
  64. Letters, 95–6.
  65. Both Spohr and Sievers wrote of this problem as early as the 1820’s. When Baini was asked about it, he is said to have replied simply: ‘Deus providebit, mi fili.’ God omitted to do this, however, and in 1903 the use of castrati was brought to an end by Pope Pius X, although Moreschi was allowed to stay on as director and sing with the choir until he retired in 1913, the year after the death of Mustafà. Boursy (Historicism and Composition n.42) points out that the allusion – an adaptation of Abraham’s response to Isaac’s question as to the whereabouts of the burnt offering (Genesis 22:8) – may show a rather morbid sense of humour.
  66. Letters, 143, 141 and 95.
  67. Hector Berlioz: ‘Voyage musical’, a part of his Italie pittoresque published in 1836, 5 (Boursy, 315).
  68. Wikipedia: æolian harp.