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ROME, St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Apr 1770
The journey from Florence to Rome lasted five days,
under a terrible rain and an icy wind. Once we
arrived at our destination, unfortunately, I discovered, from local rumours, that it had been raining continuously for four months and we had the proof before us, or rather, on us! On Wednesdays and Thursdays, when the good weather returned,
we went to St Peter's, to the Sistine Chapel, to hear the Miserere. On our way home, we were surprised by another tremendous downpour. You must know that the song Meraviglia of those times, of the Pontifical Musical Chapel, directed by Giuseppe Santi Santarelli, was performed twice a year, during the Office of Darkness.
This was my first encounter with sacred polyphony, which I would remember all my life.Back in the palace where we were staying in Rome, I managed the heroic feat of transcribing it entirely from memory after only two listenings, but in doing so, I almost turned into an outlaw! The Miserere was a composition for nine voices,
the exclusive property of the Pontifical Chapel, so much so that if I had taken it outside the Vatican walls, I would have been excommunicated immediately! Fortunately, I was good at my music and impressed the high prelates so much that I not only escaped excommunication, but was even made a Knight of the Aurata Militia by Pope Clement XIV!
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