Requiem for Soloists, Choir and Orchestra in d moll (K.626)

History of the creation of Mozart’s Requiem

In July 1791, Mozart, already famous throughout Europe and a member of the Bologna Academy and a cavalier of the Order of the Golden Spur, author of many symphonies, the operas The Marriage of Figaro and Don Juan, worked hard on The Magic Flute. The composer felt really bad: he is tormented by incomprehensible pain and weakness. One evening he was visited by a stranger, all dressed in black. He commissioned a Requiem, a funeral mass. The commissioner left certain money and said that the term of performance will be entirely on the composer. He paid generously, but did not disclose his name. Mozart agreed: exhausted by the constant lack of money, extremely impractical in matters of life, he could not refuse. He started composing right away, but he couldn’t get rid of the thought of writing this funeral mass for himself. One of his letters is preserved, in which the painful condition is reflected with tragic force: “There is chaos in my head, I gather my thoughts with great difficulty. The image of the stranger does not want to disappear from my eyes, I see him all the time. He begs, he insists and demands work from me. I keep writing because writing music tires me less than inaction. I have nothing to fear anymore. I feel – my condition suggests – that my hour has struck. I have to die. I feel it with such confidence that I don’t need more evidence. I stopped enjoying my talent. And how wonderful life was! Its beginning promised great prospects. But no one is given to change what fate has ordained. I must obediently bow to the will of Providence. So, I end my funeral song. I have no right to leave it unfinished. Vienna, September 7, 1791… “

The unknown disease was getting worse with each passing day. However, Mozart worked extremely hard. “The Magic Flute” was finished, its premiere was on September 30. After that, Mozart composed the Little Masonic Cantata, which he conducted himself in mid-November. His suffering was getting worse. When the forces finally left him, he began dictating to his student Franz Süssmayr, who lived in his home. In the first days of December, Lacrimosa was written. On the evening of December 4, the friends that have gathered around the sick man’s bed and sang it. Mozart performs the alto part, but bursts into sobs and cannot continue. He died the next day. The last requiem number he wrote was Hostias. The other parts – Sanctus, Benedict and Agnus dei – were added by Süssmayr. The concluding movement returns, albeit with a different text, Mozart’s music from the first part.

After Mozart’s death, his wife Constanze feared that the assignor would not only not pay the rest of the fee, but would also ask for the advance. She asked the composer Joseph Leopold Eybler to complete the work. Eybler accepted and wrote the orchestration in the parts next to Lacrimosa and gave up!

According to various sources, after his refusal, Constanza turned to other Viennese composers with a request to complete the work, but they also refused. Finally, the manuscript fell into the hands of Franz Xaver Süssmayr, a student of Mozart. As he himself later claimed, he completed the unfinished part of Lacrimosa and wrote entirely Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. And finally, he decides to repeat the Kyrie fugue, but with a different text. Here, however, again, according to Constanze, she handed Süssmayr some more sheets of Mozart’s notes, taking them directly from the pulpit, and suggested that these were elements of the unfinished movements. Indeed, the resemblance between the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei parts and the proven Mozart parts suggests that Süssmayr used the rest of the notes entirely, and probably the instructions for their writing by Mozart himself during his lifetime.

It has long been believed that the entire original score was written by Mozart. This is the information “provided” by Constanze, the wife. It is in her interest to think that the author of the whole work is her husband. But in 1838 the original manuscript of the Requiem was found and a year later – in 1839 – Constanze publicly acknowledged the role of Süsmeyer in completing the work.

“Death overtook him while working on the Requiem,” recalled Süsmeyer. “So the completion of his work was commissioned by many masters. Some of them, being overworked, could not afford doing it. Others feared that they might compromise their talent by comparing it to Mozart’s genius. Eventually the work came to me, as it was known that even while Mozart was alive, I often played or sang the composition together with him. He often discussed with me the development of this work and told me the whole process of work and the basics of orchestration. I can only dream of specialists finding traces of his teachings anywhere – that would mean that to some extent I have managed to do my job. ”

The premiere of the Requiem was on December 14th , 1793 in Vienna, at the Cistercian Church. A few years later, the name of the mysterious assignor became known: it was Count Franz von Walzeg, an amateur music lover who liked to pass off other people’s works as his own. He needed the Requiem to honor the memory of his late wife, and in the early 19th  century, when the announcement of the forthcoming issue of the Requiem appeared in the press, he requested Mozart’s widow to legally compensate him for his losses!!!

Mozart’s Requiem is one of the greatest creations of human genius, an inspired hymn to God. Its depth and seriousness, its drama and sublimity, its touchiness and brightness cannot leave anyone indifferent.

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