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8.553259 - MOZART: Requiem / Exultate, Jubilate / Laudate Dominum

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Masterworks of Sacred Music
Requiem in D minor, K. 626
Laudate Dominum, K. 339
Ave verum corpus, K. 618
Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165

Mozart's life was all too short. Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a leading court musician, he amazed Europe as an infant prodigy, undertaking protracted tours under the guidance of his father. Adolescence and early manhood proved less satisfying. The Mozarts had security in Salzburg, but the city, under its new Archbishop, seemed to have little to offer, and Mozart was certain that he deserved something better. In 1781, after fulfilling a successful commission in Munich with his opera Idomeneo, he travelled to Vienna to join his patron, the Archbishop. When he was denied the opportunities that seemed within his grasp and particularly the chance of making some impression on the Emperor, he quarrelled with his employer and, not for the first hut now for the last time, was dismissed.

Mozart spent the last ten years of his life principally in Vienna, without consistent patronage adequate to his needs and without the constant presence and advice of his father, who remained in Salzburg. An imprudent marriage made increasing demands on his purse, and initial success in the theatre and in public subscription concerts was followed by disappointment and the need to borrow money to meet expenses normal to one of his station.

The circumstances surrounding the composition of Mozart's Requiem are well enough known. In July 1791 he received a commission for the composition of a Requiem Mass from Count Franz Walsegg zu Stuppach, who sought to commemorate the recent death of his wife by the performance of a work of this kind, which he would claim as his own. To commission the music he sent his steward Franz Anton Leutgeb to Mozart and paid an advance of 60 ducats, with promise of a further sum when the work was finished. The summer of 1791 was a busy one for Mozart. His German opera, Die Zauberf1öte, was to be staged in the early autumn, while Prague had commissioned a coronation opera from him, La clemenza di Tito, and this involved a journey to the Bohemian capital in September for the occasion. In May he had been appointed unpaid Assistant to the Kapellmeister of St. Stephen's Cathedral, with right of succession to the aging incumbent.

Constanze Mozart was later to claim that her husband had a premonition that the Requiem was an omen of his own coming death, a suggestion to which one may attach litt1e credence, however attractive the story may appear to the romantic imagination. Mozart seemed, in the summer of 1791, very much more cheerful than he had been, since his fortunes had taken an obvious turn for the better. In November, however, he was taken ill and within a fortnight he was dead, his death ascribed by his doctor to military fever, but the subject of much subsequent speculation. On 4th December he felt well enough, to sing with his friends parts of the Requiem, which was still incomplete. Benedikt Schack, Tamino in Die Zauberf1öte, sang the soprano part in falsetto, Mozart sang alto, the violinist Hofer, husband of Constanze's sister Josefa, 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.

At his death Mozart left his setting of the Requiem unfinished. His widow Constanze might have been expected to entrust the completion of the work to her husband's pupil and her own constant companion Franz Xaver Süssmayer. Instead, apparently out of pique, she asked Josef Eybler to finish the composition and scoring. He later gave up the task and the unfinished score finally came into the hands of Süssmayer, so that the best known form of the Requiem is the version started by Mozart, continued briefly by Eybler and completed by Süssmayer. Others have in recent years replaced these additions and remodelled the work from Mozart's surviving autograph sketches.

Mozart had completed the composition and scoring of the Introit and Kyrie, used by Süssmayer for the final Communion, Lux aeterna. The great Sequence, the Dies irae, was sketched fairly fully up to the verse Lacrimosa, dies illa, a point at which Eybler too gave up his tentative work on the score. Süssmayer continued the Lacrimosa for a further 22 bars, completing it. Mozart had written the voice parts and bass of the Offertory, as he had for much of the Dies irae, and this Süssmayer completed. Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei are the work of Süssmayer.

It might 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 amused him greatly.

Mozart's Laudate Dominum is taken from his Vesperae solennes de contessore, written in Salzburg in 1780 during the uneasy period after his return from Paris and Mannheim and before his final dismissal from the service of the Archbishop.

The setting of the Ave verum, K. 618, belongs to the last summer of Mozart's life and was written in Baden, where his wife was taking the waters. It was composed for the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi and designed for his friend Anton Stoll, a schoolmaster with responsibility for a church choir. The music, in its simple clarity, represents a more popular and less formal type of church music, rather in the spirit of those Josephine reforms to which Mozart had earlier taken such exception in Salzburg.

The motet Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165, belongs to a happier period of Mozart's life, when all seemed to lie before him. With his father he had first visited Italy late in 1769. A second visit followed in 1771, with the commission for a serenata, Ascanio in Alba, in Milan. The third and final visit took p1ace in the winter of 1772, with the reluctant assent of the new Archbishop of Salzburg. The primary object of the journey was to provide a new opera, Lucio Silla, for Milan, then ruled by Archduke Ferdinand, son of the Empress Maria Theresia. The leading singer in Lucio Silla was the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, who was shortly to make his home in England, and it was for him that Mozart wrote his Exsultate, jubilate, a work that makes considerable demands on a singer. The motet is scored for pairs of oboes and horns, strings and organ. The opening section is followed by a brief recitative, modulating from the original key of F major to the A major of the succeeding Andante. The original key is restored for the final jubi1ant Alleluja.

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