Allegri Miserere CD, Import
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In 2004, Harry Christophers and The Sixteen will celebrate 25 years of music making. To commemorate this milestone, CORO has released a handsome, slip-case edition of their original recordings. The haunting tones of Allegri's Miserere are unique and instantly recognizable even to those who know little sacred choral music, and features an other-worldly treble solo. No connoisseur of the choral arts will want to be without this recording of Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli. Along with his Stabat Mater it combines exquisite contrapuntal poise with a translucent setting of the words, whereby music and text complement each other to the detriment of neither. The chromaticism and blossoming cadences of Lotti's eight part Crucifixus have made it a work loved by both choirs and listeners.
And of course music adapted. The great 19th century operas and masses all assume this vocal technique and the scores are written accordingly. But music cannot be altered retrospectively, so vocal music written before the time of Beethoven suddenly became mis-matched with contemporary vocal techniques. And so it remained until a movement grew up in England in the 1970s that demanded greater authenticity in music. No more would Mozart be played in a quasi-Brahmsian manner; no more would vocalists warble when they should sustain clear unwavering notes. Christopher Hogwood formed The Academy of Ancient Music to play Vivaldi and Mozart crisply and compellingly, while Harry Christophers formed The Sixteen to perform pre-Beethoven vocal music as it should be sung.
This required everyone, but most especially the female singers, to retrain in order to produce clear unmodulated notes. The results, especially in the Miserere, are astonishingly beautiful and powerful and awe-inspiring. I have had the great good fortune to listen to The Sixteen performing in churches and cathedrals in England, and of course nothing can quite match the power of a live performance. When this type of music is available in DVD5.1 surround-sound format things may get closer, but meanwhile CD is as good as it gets and well worth listening to. The authenticity of sound is incredible - the female singers sound just like young boys: hollow, pure, producing a clarity of tone that is agonizingly beautiful. There is very little music that literally can raise the hair on the back of your neck, but the Miserere as performed by The Sixteen is definitely on the list, along with the Dies Irae of Mozart's Requiem (K626) as performed by Hogwood's Academy.
If you don't think you really like "classical" music (and in fact this is very pre-classical indeed) but you want to experience something sublime, something so far beyond what passes for music nowadays that it is almost a different world, do buy this marvelous recording. It is as close as any of us will ever come to the sounds of angels singing.
And for those who want the text:
Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dçlç iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lavâ me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo mundâ me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognôscô: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccâvî, et malum coram te fçcî: ut iustificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincâs cum iudicaris.
Ecce enim in inquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.
Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundâbor: lavâbis me, et super nivem dçalbâbor.
Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.
Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.
Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.
Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.
Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.
Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea iustitiam tuam.
Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.
Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.
Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.
Tunc acceptabis sacrificium iustitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.