Alas, these might have been the headlines back in 1771 when a naughty-but-gifted 14-year-old Mozart defied the Church.
Allegri’s Miserere is a beautiful choral arrangement of Psalm 51 (50). For a couple of centuries, the piece was performed in the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week (Wednesday and Friday). Transcribing or publishing the arrangement would be rewarded with excommunication, but the young Mozart on a visit to Rome managed to transcribe the piece from memory.
Allegri’s masterpiece consequently was published and the Pope summoned Mozart back to the Vatican. Surprisingly, instead of giving him a good dressing down, the Pope praised Mozart’s genius. Result for music lovers everywhere.
I first encountered the piece when it was sampled in The Orb’s ‘Into the Fourth Dimension’ on their 1991 ambient house opus Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. I played the track to my pal (who is a priest) who identified it straight off and told me the Mozart story. He also said that every Good Friday, he had a tradition of sitting back alone and listening to Allegri’s original.
Not a bad tradition. Maybe the current Pope might reflect a little today on the pain his institution has brought into the world. Maybe he too might step out from behind the shield of technicalities and do what is right for the good of the people.