From Peter Kwasniewski : “If you get a critical edition of Allegri’s “Miserere,” you’ll discover that the version with which we are familiar today is not the original one — not at all, not by a long shot. In this fascinating video, we hear first what Allegri wrote in the 17th century, then its middle version from the 18th, and then the one from later on (19th cent.?) with the famous high C and other interesting musical developments. The video is cued here to the comparison.
Now, there are two reactions that can be made to this discovery:
1. “That’s not what Allegri wrote! It’s the wrong psalm tone! The high C is absurd – only a romantic would have come up with that! It’s overwrought. We should restore it to its more minimal, simple, pristine form.”
2. “Well, even if that’s not what Allegri had in mind, the embellishments amplify its beauty, making it even better than the original. It got richer and fuller over time, and we would be poorer if we went back to the original.”
And then the analogy struck me: the first is like the liturgical antiquarian or archaeologist, who thinks the unadorned earliest version of a thing is more authentic and more pure than the later developed version. The second is like the proponent of organic development, who sees that generations can improve upon what they have inherited, actually bringing out more fully what was implicit in the earlier. You can guess which school of thought I belong to: the mature oak tree is more fully what it is than the acorn or the sapling.”