MOZART: Requiem (Igor Bohacek/ Jaroslava Horska/ Jozef Kundlak/ Magdalena Hajossyova/ Peter Mikulas/ Slovak Philharmonic Chorus/ Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra/ Stefan Klimo/ Vladimir Ruso/ Zdenek Kosler) (Naxos: 8.550235)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Requiem in D minor, K. 626
Mozart's life was all too short. Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of aleading court musician, he amazed Europe as an infant prodigy, undertakingprotracted tours under the guidance of his father .Adolescence and earlymanhood proved less satisfying. The Mozarts had security in Salzburg, but thecity, under its new Archbishop, seemed to have little to otter, and Mozart wascertain that he deserved something better. In 1781, after fulfilling asuccessful commission in Munich with his opera Idomeneo, he travelled to Viennato join his patron, the Archbishop. When he was denied the opportunities thatseemed within his grasp and particularly the chance of making some impressionon the Emperor, he quarrel led with his employer and, not for the first but nowfor 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 constantpresence and advice of his father, who remained in Salzburg. An imprudentmarriage made increasing demands on his purse, and initial success in thetheatre and in public subscription concerts was followed by disappointment andthe need to borrow money to meet expenses normal to one of his station.
The circumstances surrounding the composition of Mozart's Requiem arewell enough known. In July 1791 he received a commission for the composition ofa Requiem Mass from Count Franz Walsegg zu Stuppach, who sought to commemoratethe recent death of his wife by the performance of a work of this kind, whichhe would claim as his own. To commission the music he sent his steward FranzAnton Leutgeb to Mozart and paid an advance of 60 ducats, with promise of afurther sum when the work was finished. The summer of 1791 was a busy one forMozart. His German opera, Die Zauberflote, was to be staged in the earlyautumn, while Prague had commissioned a coronation opera from him, La clemenza di Tito, and this involved ajourney to the Bohemian capital in September for the occasion. In May he hadbeen appointed unpaid Assistant to the Kapellmeister of St. Stephen'sCathedral, with right of succession to the aging incumbent.
Constanze Mozart was later to claim that her husband had a premonitionthat the Requiem was an omen of his own coming death, a suggestion to which onemay attach little credence, however attractive the story may appear to theromantic imagination. Mozart seemed, in the summer of 1791, very much morecheerful than he had been, since his fortunes had taken an obvious turn for thebetter. In November, however, he was taken ill and within a fortnight he wasdead, his death ascribed by his doctor to military fever, but the subject ofmuch subsequent speculation. On 4th December he felt well enough to sing withhis friends parts of the Requiem, which was still incomplete. Benedikt Schack,Tamino in Die Zauberflote, sangthe soprano part in falsetto, Mozart sang alto, the violinist Hofer, husband ofConstanze's sister Josefa, Queen of the Night, sang tenor and Franz Gerl, whosewife played Papagena, while he took the part of Sarastro, sang bass. It is saidthat Mozart burst into tears and could go no further when it came to theLacrimosa, of which, incidentally, he had written on I y the first eight bars.
This was in the afternoon. In the evening his condition worsened and he died atfive minutes to one on the morning of 5th December, to be buried a day or solater in an unmarked grave.
At his death Mozart left his setting of the Requiem unfinished. Hiswidow Constanze might have been expected to entrust the completion of the workto her husband's pupil and her own constant companion Franz Xaver S??ssmayer.
Instead, apparently out of pique, she asked Josef Eybler to finish the compositionand scoring. He later gave up the task and the unfinished score finally cameinto the hands of S??ssmayer, so that the best known form of the Requiem is theversion started by Mozart, continued briefly by Eybler and completed byS??ssmayer. Others have in recent years replaced these additions and remodelledthe work from Mozart's surviving autograph sketches.
Mozart had completed the composition and scoring of the Introit and Kyrie, used by S??ssmayer 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 whichEybler too gave up his tentative work on the score. S??ssmayer continued the Lacrimosa for a further 22 bars,completing it. Mozart had written the voice parts and bass of the Offertory, ashe had for much of the Dies Irae,and this S??ssmayer completed. Sanctus,Benedictus and Agnus Dei
are the work of S??ssmayer.
It might be added that Count Walsegg was not deterred from his originalintention and on 14th December 1793 had the Requiem performed as his owncomposition, an imposture that amused him greatly.
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra The Slovak PhilharmonicOrchestra has benefited considerably from the work of its distinguishedconductors. These included Vaclav Talich (1949 - 1952), Ludovit Rajter andLadislav Slovak. The Czech conductor Libor Pesek was appointed residentconductor in 1981, and the present Principal Conductor is the Slovak musicianBystrik Rezucha. Zdenek Kosler has also had a long and distinguishedassociation with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most successfulrecordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvorak.
During the years of its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonichas worked under the direction of many of the most distinguished conductorsfrom abroad, from Eugene Goossens and Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, AntalDorati and Riccardo Muti.
The orchestra has undertaken many tours abroad, including visits toGermany and Japan, and has made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opuslabel, for Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Poloand Naxos labels. These recordings have brought the orchestra a growinginternational reputation and praise from the critics of leading internationalpublications.
The Czech conductor Zdenek Kosler studied under Karel Ancerl at thePrague Academy of Arts, and distinguished himself early in his career at theBesan?ºon Conductors' Competition and in the Dimitri Mitropoulos Competition inNew York. The first prize in the second of these enabled him to work asassistant-conductor with Leonard Bernstein for one year.
In Czechoslovakia Kosler began as conductor of the Prague operaensemble, before becoming chief conductor and music director of the opera inOlomouc and Ostrava. He spent a short time as permanent conductor of the PragueSymphony Orchestra, before moving to Berlin, where he was appointed MusicDirector of the Komische Oper in 1965. In 1971 he became chief conductor of theSlovak National Theatre Opera, undertaking engagements at this same time withthe Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducting the Czech PhilharmonicOrchestra in Prague, in addition to guest appearances with major orchestrasabroad, in Europe, Canada and the Far East.
As permanent conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra ZdenekKosler has travelled widely. From 1980 until 1985 he was chief conductor andartistic director of the Prague National Theatre Opera to which he will returnas chief conductor in 1990. He has received the highest national honour, thetitle National Artist, from the Czechoslovakian govern