The recent recurrence on 2 August of Psalm 51, of which much has been written in this blog, reminds us of another popular story.
In Latin, the psalm begins ‘Miserere‘ meaning ‘Have mercy’ (for more, see for example the post for 15 March 2015>). A quite stunning and famous setting by Gregorio Allegri was written for two choirs in about 1630, to be sung in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. It was not to be sung elsewhere under pain of excommunication.
The story goes that 14 year-old Mozart (1756-91) heard it and later accurately transcribed it from memory, leading to its free publication. Young Wolfgang was later summoned to the pope to receive congratulations on this musical feat, rather than admonishment.
For a more expansive version of this tale, see a recent post on Good Music Speaks.
And listen to this by the Tallis Scholars: