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8.557728 - MOZART: Requiem in D Minor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Requiem in D minor, K. 626
Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a leading court musician, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, through the indulgence of his father Leopold’s employer, the Archbishop of Salzburg, was able to amaze audiences throughout Europe as an infant prodigy. Adolescence and early manhood proved less satisfactory. Salzburg, under a new Archbishop from 1772, seemed to have little to offer, although it did provide an element of security for the family. Leopold Mozart, now Vice- Kapellmeister, had largely sacrificed his own career as a composer to that of his son, but prudence kept him in Salzburg. Mozart, however, first tried to seek his fortune elsewhere in 1777, when, having secured his dismissal from the court musical establishment, he travelled to Mannheim and to Paris, hoping to find a position that would provide scope for his genius. Unsuccessful in his quest, he returned reluctantly to Salzburg, where his father had arranged his reinstatement in the service of the Archbishop. It was largely through connections made at Mannheim that he received a request for an opera to be mounted in Munich, where the Elector now had his seat. Idomeneo, re di Creta was successful there early in 1781, but immediately afterwards Mozart was told to join the entourage of the Archbishop of Salzburg in Vienna. Here Mozart’s impatience and feeling of frustration led to a break with his patron and a final period of precarious independence in Vienna, without the security of Salzburg or the immediate prudent advice of his father. At first things seemed to go well. Without seeking his father’s approval, he married one of the dowerless daughters of a jobbing Mannheim musician, but made a name for himself as a composer and performer. Nevertheless his earnings never seemed commensurate with his expenses, so that by the end of the decade he found himself constantly obliged to borrow money.
In 1791 it seemed that Mozart’s luck was turning. Although the succession of a new Emperor after the death of Joseph II lost him his minor court position as a composer of dance music, he was appointed, in May, unpaid assistant to the Kapellmeister at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, with right of succession to the aging incumbent. Together with the actor-manager Emanuel Schikaneder he was busy with a new German opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), to be mounted in the autumn, while Prague had commissioned from him a coronation opera, La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus), a work staged there in September, to the expressed contempt of the new Emperor’s wife.
Mozart’s wife Constanze was later to claim that her husband had a premonition that the Requiem was an omen of his own coming death. The work had been commissioned anonymously in July 1791 by Count Franz Walsegg zu Stuppach, acting through his steward Franz Anton Leutgeb or another intermediary, who sought to commemorate the recent death of his wife by the performance of a work of this kind that he might, at least by implication, claim as his own. While no intention of this kind was revealed to Mozart, an initial fee of sixty ducats was paid, with promise of a further sum when the Requiem was completed. In the event Mozart did not live to finish the work. In November he was taken ill and within a fortnight he was dead. On 4th December he felt well enough to sing, from his bed, parts of the unfinished work. Benedikt Schack, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, sang the soprano part in falsetto, Mozart sang alto, the violinist Hofer, husband of Constanze’s sister Josefa, the Queen of the Night, sang tenor, and Franz Gerl, whose wife played Papagena, while he took the part of Sarastro, sang bass. It is said that Mozart burst into tears and could go no further when it came to the Lacrimosa, of which, incidentally, he had written only the first eight bars. This was in the afternoon. In the evening his condition worsened and he died at five minutes to one on the morning of 5th December, to be buried a day or so later in an unmarked grave, following the simpler funeral customs established by Joseph II.
It might have been expected that Constanze, who needed the rest of the fee for the work, would entrust the completion of the Requiem to her husband’s pupil and her own frequent companion Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Instead, apparently out of pique, she asked Joseph Eybler, who had assisted Mozart in rehearsals for Così fan tutte, to finish the composition and the scoring. He later gave up the task and the unfinished score finally came into the hands of Süssmayr, so that the best known form of the Requiem is that started by Mozart, continued briefly by Eybler and completed by Süssmayr. Recent years have seen attempts to replace these additions and remodel the work from Mozart’s surviving sketches.
Mozart had completed the composition and scoring of the Introit and Kyrie, used by Süssmayr for the final Communion, Lux aeterna. The great Sequence, the Dies irae, with its vivid musical depiction of the Last Judgement, was sketched fairly fully up to the Lacrimosa, a point at which Eybler too gave up. Süssmayr continued the Lacrimosa for a further 22 bars, completing it. Mozart had written the voice parts and the bass of the Offertory, as he had for much of the Dies irae, and this Süssmayr completed. The Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei are by Süssmayr. It should be added that Count Walsegg was not deterred from his original intention and on 14th December 1793 had the Requiem performed as his own composition, an imposture that seemed to bring him great satisfaction.
Inter natos mulierum, K.72, is a setting of the offertory for the feast of St John the Baptist and was written in Salzburg in May or June 1771. In March Mozart and his father had returned from an extended Italian journey that had brought study of counterpoint with Padre Martini in Bologna and an opera commissioned for Milan, leading later in the year to a second commission in Milan and their return there from August to December. The work is scored for choir, organ, and an orchestra of strings and three trombones. Misericordias Domini, K.222, scored for choir, strings and organ, was written in 1775 in Munich, where a new opera had been commissioned. In a letter to Padre Martini Mozart enclosed his composition for his teacher’s approval, explaining that it had been written in some haste for performance at High Mass the following Sunday. The offertory setting, with its deployment of counterpoint, won Padre Martini’s unstinting praise, meeting, as he said, all the demands of modern music.
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