Requiem (Mozart)

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Title in Mozart's autograph

The Requiem Mass in D minor (K. 626) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was composed in Vienna in 1791 and left unfinished at the composer's death on December 5. A completion dated 1792 by Franz Xaver Süssmayr was delivered to Count Franz von Walsegg, who had anonymously commissioned the piece for a requiem mass to commemorate the February 14 anniversary of his wife's death.

The autograph manuscript (acquired by the Austrian National Library in 1831–1838) shows the finished and orchestrated Introit in Mozart's hand, as well as detailed drafts of the Kyrie and the sequence Dies Irae as far as the first eight bars of the "Lacrymosa" movement, and the Offertory. It cannot be shown to what extent Süssmayr may have depended on now lost "scraps of paper" for the remainder; he later claimed the Sanctus and Agnus Dei as his own. Walsegg probably intended to pass the Requiem off as his own composition, as he is known to have done with other works. This plan was frustrated by a public benefit performance for Mozart's widow Constanze. A modern contribution to the mythology is Peter Shaffer's 1979 play Amadeus, in which a mysterious messenger orders Mozart to write a requiem mass, giving no explanation for the order; Mozart (in the play) then comes to believe that the piece is meant to be the requiem mass for his own funeral.

The Requiem is scored for 2 basset horns in F, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets in D, 3 trombones (alto, tenor & bass), timpani (2 drums), violins, viola and basso continuo (cello, double bass, and organ). The vocal forces include soprano, contralto, tenor, and bass soloists and an SATB mixed choir.

History[edit]

Composition[edit]

At the time of Mozart's death on 5 December 1791, only the opening movement (Requiem aeternam) was completed in all of the orchestral and vocal parts. The following Kyrie and most of the sequence (from Dies Irae to Confutatis) were complete only in the vocal parts and the continuo (the figured organ bass), though occasionally some of the prominent orchestral parts were briefly indicated, such as the first violin part of the Rex tremendae and Confutatis and the musical bridges in the Recordare. The sixth movement of the sequence, the Lacrymosa, breaks off after only eight bars and was unfinished. The following two movements of the Offertorium were again partially done; the Domine Jesu Christe in the vocal parts and continuo (up until the fugue, which contains some indications of the violin part) and the Hostias in the vocal parts only.

Constanze Mozart and the Requiem after Mozart's death[edit]

The eccentric count Franz von Walsegg commissioned the Requiem from Mozart anonymously through intermediaries. The count, an amateur chamber musician who routinely commissioned works by composers and passed them off as his own,[1][2] wanted a Requiem Mass he could claim he composed to memorialize the recent passing of his wife. Mozart received only half of the payment in advance, so upon his death his widow Constanze was keen to have the work completed secretly by someone else, submit it to the count as having been completed by Mozart and collect the final payment.[3] Joseph von Eybler was one of the first composers to be asked to complete the score, and had worked on the movements from the Dies irae up until the Lacrymosa. In addition, a striking similarity between the openings of the Domine Jesu Christe movements in the requiems of the two composers suggests that Eybler at least looked at later sections. After this work, he felt unable to complete the remainder, and gave the manuscript back to Constanze Mozart.

The task was then given to another composer, Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Süssmayr borrowed some of Eybler's work in making his completion, and added his own orchestration to the movements from the Kyrie onward, completed the Lacrymosa, and added several new movements which a Requiem would normally comprise: Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. He then added a final section, Lux aeterna by adapting the opening two movements which Mozart had written to the different words which finish the Requiem Mass, which according to both Süssmayr and Mozart's wife was done according to Mozart's directions. Some people[who?] consider it unlikely, however, that Mozart would have repeated the opening two sections if he had survived to finish the work.

Other composers may have helped Süssmayr. The Agnus Dei is suspected by some scholars[4] to have been based on instruction or sketches from Mozart because of its similarity to a section from the Gloria of a previous Mass (Sparrow Mass, K. 220) by Mozart,[5] as was first pointed out by Richard Maunder. Others have pointed out that in the beginning of the Agnus Dei the choral bass quotes the main theme from the Introitus.[6] Many of the arguments[citation needed] dealing with this matter, though, center on the perception that if part of the work is high quality, it must have been written by Mozart (or from sketches), and if part of the work contains errors and faults, it must have been all Süssmayr's doing. A frequent meta-debate[citation needed] is whether this is a fair way to judge the authorship of the parts of the work.

Another controversy is the suggestion that Mozart left explicit instructions for the completion of the Requiem on "little scraps of paper." It is commonly believed[by whom?] this claim was made by Constanze Mozart after it was public knowledge that the Requiem was actually completed by Süssmayr as a way to increase the impression of authenticity.

The completed score, initially by Mozart but largely finished by Süssmayr, was then dispatched to Count Walsegg complete with a counterfeited signature of Mozart and dated 1792. The various complete and incomplete manuscripts eventually turned up in the 19th century, but many of the figures involved did not leave unambiguous statements on record as to how they were involved in the affair. Despite the controversy over how much of the music is actually Mozart's, the commonly performed Süssmayr version has become widely accepted by the public. This acceptance is quite strong, even when alternate completions provide logical and compelling solutions for the work. A completion dating from 1819 by Sigismund Neukomm has been recorded under the baton of Jean-Claude Malgoire. Salzburg-born Neukomm, a student of Joseph Haydn, provided a concluding Libera me, Domine for a performance of the Requiem on the feast of St Cecilia in Rio de Janeiro at the behest of Nunes Garcia.

The confusion surrounding the circumstances of the Requiem's composition was created in a large part by Mozart's wife, Constanze[citation needed]. Constanze had a difficult task in front of her: she had to keep secret the fact that the Requiem was unfinished at Mozart's death, so she could collect the final payment from the commission. For a period of time, she also needed to keep secret the fact that Süssmayr had anything to do with the composition of the Requiem at all, in order to allow Count Walsegg the impression that Mozart wrote the work entirely himself. Once she received the commission, she needed to carefully promote the work as Mozart's so that she could continue to receive revenue from the work's publication and performance. During this phase of the Requiem's history, it was still important that the public accept that Mozart wrote the whole piece, as it would fetch larger sums from publishers and the public if it were completely by Mozart.

It is Constanze's efforts that created the flurry of half-truths and myths almost instantly after Mozart's death. According to Constanze, Mozart declared that he was composing the Requiem for himself, and that he had been poisoned. His symptoms worsened, and he began to complain about the painful swelling of his body and high fever. Nevertheless, Mozart continued his work on the Requiem, and even on the last day of his life, he was explaining to his assistant how he intended to finish the Requiem. Source materials written soon after Mozart’s death contain serious discrepancies, which leave a level of subjectivity when assembling the "facts" about Mozart’s composition of the Requiem. For example, at least three of the conflicting sources, both dated within two decades following Mozart's death, cite Constanze as their primary source of interview information. In 1798, Friedrich Rochlitz, a German biographical author and amateur composer, published a set of Mozart anecdotes that he claimed to have collected during his meeting with Constanze in 1796.[7] The Rochlitz publication makes the following statements:

The most highly disputed of these claims is the last one, the chronology of this setting. According to Rochlitz, the messenger arrives quite some time before the departure of Leopold for the coronation, yet there is a record of his departure occurring in mid-July 1791. However, as Constanze was in Baden during all of June to mid-July, she would not have been present for the commission or the drive they were said to have taken together.[7] Furthermore, The Magic Flute (except for the Overture and March of the Priests) was completed by mid-July. La clemenza di Tito was commissioned by mid-July.[7] There was no time for Mozart to work on the Requiem on the large scale indicated by the Rochlitz publication in the time frame provided.

Also in 1798, Constanze is noted to have given another interview to Franz Xaver Niemetschek,[8] another biographer looking to publish a compendium of Mozart's life. He published his biography in 1808, containing a number of claims about Mozart’s receipt of the Requiem commission:

This account, too, has fallen under scrutiny and criticism for its accuracy. According to letters, Constanze most certainly knew the name of the commissioner by the time this interview was released in 1800.[8] Additionally, the Requiem was not given to the messenger until some time after Mozart's death.[7] This interview contains the only account from Constanze herself of the claim that she took the Requiem away from Wolfgang for a significant duration during his composition of it.[7] Otherwise, the timeline provided in this account is historically probable. However, the most highly accepted text attributed to Constanze is the interview to her second husband, Georg Nikolaus von Nissen.[7] After Nissen's death in 1826, Constanze released the biography of Wolfgang (1828) that Nissen had compiled, which included this interview. Nissen states:

The Nissen publication lacks information following Mozart's return from Prague.[7]

Modern completions[edit]

In the 1960s a sketch for an Amen fugue was discovered, which some musicologists (Levin, Maunder) believe belongs to the Requiem at the conclusion of the sequence after the Lacrymosa. H. C. Robbins Landon argues that this Amen fugue was not intended for the Requiem, rather that it "may have been for a separate unfinished Mass in D minor" to which the Kyrie K. 341 also belonged. There is, however, compelling evidence placing the "Amen Fugue" in the Requiem[9] based on current Mozart scholarship. First, the principal subject is the main theme of the requiem (stated at the beginning, and throughout the work) in strict inversion. Second, it is found on the same page as a sketch for the Rex tremendae (together with a sketch for the overture of his last opera The Magic Flute), and thus surely dates from late 1791. The only place where the word 'Amen' occurs in anything that Mozart wrote in late 1791 is in the sequence of the Requiem. Third, as Levin points out in the foreword to his completion of the Requiem, the addition of the Amen Fugue at the end of the sequence results in an overall design that ends each large section with a fugue.

Since the 1970s several musicologists, dissatisfied with the traditional "Süssmayr" completion, have attempted alternative completions of the Requiem. Each version follows a distinct methodology for completion:

In the Levin, Andrews, Druce and Cohrs versions, the Sanctus fugue is completely rewritten and reproportioned and the Benedictus is restructured to allow for a reprise of the Sanctus fugue in the key of D (rather than Süssmayr's use of B-flat).

Maunder, Levin, Druce and Cohrs use the sketch for the Amen fugue discovered in the 1960s to compose a longer and more substantial setting to the words "Amen" at the end of the sequence. In the Süssmayr version, "Amen" is set as a plagal cadence with a Picardy third (iv - I in D minor) at the end of the Lacrymosa: the Andrews version uses the Süssmayr ending.

Other authors have also attempted the completion, including Clemens Kemme.[10]

Timeline[edit]

Structure[edit]

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Introïtus, Bruno Walter, 1956.

The Süssmayr completion of the Requiem is divided into fourteen movements, with the following structure:

Bars 1–5 of the Lacrymosa
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Kyrie, Bruno Walter, 1956.

All sections from the Sanctus onwards are not present in Mozart's manuscript fragment. Mozart probably intended to include the Amen Fugue at the end of the Sequentia, but Süssmayr did not do so in his completion.

The Introitus is in D minor and finishes on a half-cadence that transitions directly into Kyrie. The Kyrie is a double fugue, with one subject setting the words "Kyrie eleison" and the other "Christe eleison". The movement Tuba mirum opens with a trombone solo accompanying the bass. The Confutatis is well known for its string accompaniment; it opens with agitating figures that accentuate the wrathful sound of the basses and tenors, but it turns into soft arpeggios in the second phrase while accompanying the soft sounds of the sopranos and altos.

Influences[edit]

Mozart esteemed Handel and in 1789 he was commissioned by Baron Gottfried van Swieten to rearrange Messiah. This work likely influenced the composition of Mozart's Requiem; the Kyrie is probably based on the And with his stripes we are healed chorus from Handel's Messiah (HWV 56), since the subject of the fugato, in which Handel was a master, is the same, with only slight variations by adding ornaments on melismata.

Some believe that the Introitus was inspired by Handel's Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline (HWV 264), and some have also remarked that the Confutatis may have been inspired by Sinfonia Venezia by Pasquale Anfossi. Another influence was Michael Haydn's Requiem in C minor which he and his father heard at the first three performances in January 1772. Some have noted that M. Haydn's "Introitus" sounds rather similar to Mozart's, and the theme for the fugue of Mozart's Offertorium No. 1 is a direct quote of the theme of M. Haydn's Offertorium and Versus.

Myths surrounding the Requiem[edit]

With multiple levels of deception surrounding the Requiem's completion, a natural outcome is the mythologizing which subsequently occurred. One series of myths surrounding the Requiem involves the role Antonio Salieri played in the commissioning and completion of the Requiem (and in Mozart's death generally). While the most recent retelling of this myth is Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus and the movie made from it, it is important to note that the source of misinformation was actually a 19th-century play by Alexander Pushkin, Mozart and Salieri, which was turned into an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov and subsequently used as the framework for Amadeus.[13]

The autograph at the 1958 World's Fair[edit]

Mozart's manuscript with missing corner

The autograph of the Requiem was placed on display at the World's Fair in 1958 in Brussels. At some point during the fair, someone was able to gain access to the manuscript, tearing off the bottom right-hand corner of the second to last page (folio 99r/45r), containing the words "Quam olim d: C:" (an instruction that the "Quam olim" fugue of the Domine Jesu was to be repeated "da capo", at the end of the Hostias). The perpetrator has not been identified and the fragment has not been recovered.[14]

If the most common authorship theory is true, then "Quam olim d: C:" might very well be the last words Mozart wrote before he died. It is probable that whoever stole the fragment believed that to be the case.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blom, Jan Dirk (2009). A Dictionary of Hallucinations. Springer. p. 342. 
  2. ^ Gehring, Franz Eduard (1883). Mozart ( The Great Musicians). University of Michigan: S. Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington,. p. 124. 
  3. ^ Wolff, Christoph (1994). Mozart's Requiem. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 3. 
  4. ^ Leeson (2004) Daniel N. Opus Ultimum: The Story of the Mozart Requiem, Algora Publishing, New York, p. 79: "Mozart might have described specific instrumentation for the drafted sections, or the addition of a Sanctus, a Benedictus, and an Agnus Dei, telling Süssmayr he would be obliged to compose those sections himself."
  5. ^ R. J. Summer, Choral Masterworks from Bach to Britten: Reflections of a Conductor Rowman & Littlefield p. 28
  6. ^ Mentioned in the CD booklet of the Requiem recording by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (2004).
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Landon, H. C. Robbins (1988). 1791: Mozart's Last Year. New York: Schirmer Books. 
  8. ^ a b Steve Boerner (December 16, 2000). "K. 626: Requiem in D Minor". The Mozart Project. 
  9. ^ Paul Moseley: "Mozart's Requiem: A Revaluation of the Evidence" J Royal Music Assn (1989; 114) pp. 203–237
  10. ^ http://www.ahk.nl/conservatorium/het-conservatorium/geschiedenis/125-jaar/mozarts-requiem/abstract-kemme/
  11. ^ Wolff, Christoph. Mozart's Requiem: historical and analytical studies, documents, score, 1998, University of California Press, p. 65
  12. ^ Fenton, John H. (January 20, 1964). "Boston Symphony Plays for Requiem Honoring Kennedy". The New York Times. p. 1. 
  13. ^ Gregory Allen Robbins. "Mozart & Salieri, Cain & Abel: A Cinematic Transformation of Genesis 4.", Journal of Religion and Film: Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1997
  14. ^ Facsimile of the manuscript's last page, showing the missing corner

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Recorded performances of Mozart's Requiem[edit]

Scores of Mozart's Requiem[edit]