Der Ein und funfzigste Psalm Davids
Miserere mei, Deus!
in Musik gesetzt von Sarti

Fugue in F Minor, "Tunc imponent"

Giuseppe Sarti (1729–1802) began his training with Valotti in Padua. Then, at age ten, he apprenticed for nine years to Padre Martini in Bologna. A series of jobs eventually took him to Copenhagen, where he became the music director of the royal chapel. He moved on to become music director of the Milan cathedral, and later music director of the imperial chapel in St. Petersburg. While in Russia he founded a school of singers and created a conservatory like those in Naples and Venice (he had been a chorus master at one of the Ospedale for girls in Venice). His many operas were among the most successful in the closing decades of the eighteenth century.

This manuscript ("The 51st Psalm of David, 'Have Mercy Upon Me, O God,' Set to Music by Sarti") is held in the Saxon State Library in Dresden, Germany (Mus.3273-D-1). While the manuscript was likely copied for a German client in the 1790s, the music may date from a decade earlier when Sarti was Maestro di capella at the Milan Cathedral. A Miserere is a long work, in this case for four-part chorus, three violas, and basso continuo. The instrumental parts merely double the voices, so only the voice-parts are transcribed here.

The section reproduced is the fugue that sets the final phrase of the psalm—"Then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar." In Latin, the phrase begins "Tunc imponent," the four syllables of which are set to the four half notes that open the fugue subject. In this fugue, Sarti presents many of the characteristic features of what became the academic fugue in the nineteenth century: a counter-exposition, a grand pause near the midpoint, and a series of stretti following the grand pause. It is significant that during his time in Milan Sarti taught the young Cherubini, who went on to become director of the Paris Conservatory.