A new Sanctus, Benedictus & Agnus Dei for Mozart's Requiem

In 2013, the American composer Gregory Spears created three new movements of the Requiem – Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. He has written music for stage, orchestra, and other works that have been performed by prestigious ensembles and received high acclaim. He writes for modern and early instruments, combining various aspects of Romanticism, Minimalism, Renaissance and Baroque music. His music has been called “astonishingly beautiful” (The New York Times), “coolly entrancing” (The New Yorker), and “some of the most beautifully unsettling music to appear in recent memory” (The Boston Globe).

Gregory Spears says of his work on Mozart’s Requiem:While researching Mozart’s Requiem, I came across a rare recording by conductor Eugen Jochum from 1955. On the recording, the traditional Mozart/Sussmayr completion was performed as part of a memorial service in Vienna. This historical recording — which interpolated organ improvisations and chanted texts into the musical fabric — was a reminder that a Requiem, when performed as a mass, invites music from different sources and time periods. Mozart’s work was itself highly influenced by earlier music and begins with a conspicuous borrowing from Handel’s Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline. While my new music does not sound like Mozart, it is written in a manner that pays homage to the juxtaposition of old and new styles apparent in Mozart’s late work and much of the liturgical music of the period. One of the enduring stories concerning the Requiem was that the composer’s wife, Constanze, gave Sussmayr some musical “scraps” left by her husband to help the young composer write the missing movements. In homage to this myth, I have incorporated two cadential fragments from Sussmayr’s completion into the end of my Benedictus and Agnus Dei. Are these short passages possibly Mozart’s last writings, or are they Sussmayr’s invention? Our inability to answer such questions generates passionate debate concerning the Requiem and its fragmentary nature.

Kenneth Bean wrote on this matter: The philosophical question surrounding the ‘correct” approach to completing Mozart’s Requiem will, undoubtedly, persist indefinitely. Sussmayr’s version, with its familiar Mozartian aura, might appeal to the purists. Meanwhile, Spears’ completion — a rich tapestry woven from countless threads across music history, offering a simultaneous glimpse into the past, present, and beyond — invites listeners to traverse a multidimensional spiritual and musical journey.

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