oral transmission: motivation and memorization

jacob.baltuch at euronet.be jacob.baltuch at euronet.be
Sat Jun 14 16:55:24 UTC 1997

>During, I think, the lenten Penetential Mass, the beautiful __Miserere__ of
>Gregorio Allegri was performed in the Sistene Chapel.  This agnst-ridden
>music brought many to tears and even swooning, as I think John Ruskin
>reported.  For this reason since the C. XVII the Vatican never released the
>score. The gorgeous simplicity of the piece made this example of Mozart's
>memory less impressive than some others.

The simplicity of the score (and of the kind of performance which could
be heard until the early music movement reestablished to some extent early
performance practices) is misleading.

Mozart of course wrote down the "Miserere" exactly as heard, i.e. *as
performed*, with all the ornamentation exactly as executed and *not* just
a sketch of it, which the score essentially was.

It seems what Mozart achieved *was* a feat by all contemporary accounts
(think about it: what would be the purpose of not releasing the score
of a piece which could be written down by any competent musician?) and
if Ruskin says otherwise it must be simply that he didn't understand what the
performance practices of that time and place were and was mistakenly judging
either from the score or from a 19th century performance.

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