MUSICAL MEMORY - online book

A System To Cultivate The Musical Memory For Musicians.

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MUSICAL MEMORY.                                               63
119.   The present chapter is the result of our efforts to collect from various sources, evidences of the possession of exceptional powers of memory by musicians. As, however, no object would be gained by chronicling the usual type of memory-performance so common at the present time, we have deemed it desirable to place on record only those facts about memory-performances which, on account of their exceptional nature, are of permanent interest, and for this reason the names of many great musicians are omitted, not necessarily because of any deficiency on their part, but because nothing of unusual interest respecting their performances has come to our knowledge.
120.   Amongst the most famous feats of memory, and at the time of its performance the most remarkable was that performed by Mozart in connection with Allegri's Miserere in 1770. Mozart and his father were on an Italian tour, and, according to Otto Jahn, " they arrived in Rome about midday on Wednesday in Holy Week amidst a storm of thunder and lightning, 'received like grand people with a discharge of artillery.' There was just time to hurry to the Sistine Chapel and hear Allegri's Miserere. It was here that Wolfgang accomplished his celebrated feat of musical ear and memory. It was the custom on Wednesday and Friday in Holy Week for the choir of the Pope's household to sing the Miserere (Ps. 50) composed by Dom. Allegri, which was arranged alternately for a four and five part chorus, having a final chorus in nine parts. This performance was universally considered as one of the most wonderful in Rome; the impression made by it, in conjunction with the solemn rites it accompanied, was always described as overpowering. 1 You know,' writes L. Mozart, ' that this celebrated Miserere is so jealously guarded, that members of the chapel are forbidden, under pain of excommunication, to take their parts out of the chapel, or to copy, or allow it to be copied. We have got it, notwithstanding. Wolfgang has written it down, and I should have sent it to Salzburg in this letter were not our presence necessary for its production. More depends on the performance than even on the composition. Besides, we must not let our secret fall into other hands, ut non inairramus, mediate vel immediate, in censuram ecclesia.' When the performance was repeated on Good Friday, Wolfgang took the manuscript with him into the chapel, and holding it in his hat, corrected some passages where his memory had not been quite true. The affair became known, and naturally made a great
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