MOZART: Requiem, K. 626 (Anne Buter/ Gewandhaus Chamber Choir/ Leipzig Chamber Orchestra/ Marcus Ullmann/ Martin Snell/ Miriam Allan/ Morten Schuldt-Jensen) (Naxos: 8.557728)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Requiem in D minor, K. 626
Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a leading courtmusician, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, through theindulgence of his father Leopold's employer, theArchbishop of Salzburg, was able to amaze audiencesthroughout Europe as an infant prodigy. Adolescenceand early manhood proved less satisfactory. Salzburg,under a new Archbishop from 1772, seemed to havelittle to offer, although it did provide an element ofsecurity for the family. Leopold Mozart, now Vice-Kapellmeister, had largely sacrificed his own career as acomposer to that of his son, but prudence kept him inSalzburg. Mozart, however, first tried to seek his fortuneelsewhere in 1777, when, having secured his dismissalfrom the court musical establishment, he travelled toMannheim and to Paris, hoping to find a position thatwould provide scope for his genius. Unsuccessful in hisquest, he returned reluctantly to Salzburg, where hisfather had arranged his reinstatement in the service ofthe Archbishop. It was largely through connectionsmade at Mannheim that he received a request for anopera to be mounted in Munich, where the Elector nowhad his seat. Idomeneo, re di Creta was successful thereearly in 1781, but immediately afterwards Mozart wastold to join the entourage of the Archbishop of Salzburgin Vienna. Here Mozart's impatience and feeling offrustration led to a break with his patron and a finalperiod of precarious independence in Vienna, withoutthe security of Salzburg or the immediate prudent adviceof his father. At first things seemed to go well. Withoutseeking his father's approval, he married one of thedowerless daughters of a jobbing Mannheim musician,but made a name for himself as a composer andperformer. Nevertheless his earnings never seemedcommensurate with his expenses, so that by the end ofthe decade he found himself constantly obliged toborrow money.
In 1791 it seemed that Mozart's luck was turning.
Although the succession of a new Emperor after thedeath of Joseph II lost him his minor court position as acomposer of dance music, he was appointed, in May,unpaid assistant to the Kapellmeister at St Stephen'sCathedral in Vienna, with right of succession to theaging incumbent. Together with the actor-managerEmanuel Schikaneder he was busy with a new Germanopera, Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), to bemounted in the autumn, while Prague had commissionedfrom him a coronation opera, La clemenza di Tito (TheClemency of Titus), a work staged there in September,to the expressed contempt of the new Emperor's wife.
Mozart's wife Constanze was later to claim that herhusband had a premonition that the Requiem was anomen of his own coming death. The work had beencommissioned anonymously in July 1791 by CountFranz Walsegg zu Stuppach, acting through his stewardFranz Anton Leutgeb or another intermediary, whosought to commemorate the recent death of his wife bythe performance of a work of this kind that he might, atleast by implication, claim as his own. While nointention of this kind was revealed to Mozart, an initialfee of sixty ducats was paid, with promise of a furthersum when the Requiem was completed. In the eventMozart did not live to finish the work. In November hewas taken ill and within a fortnight he was dead. On 4thDecember he felt well enough to sing, from his bed,parts of the unfinished work. Benedikt Schack, Taminoin Die Zauberflote, sang the soprano part in falsetto,Mozart sang alto, the violinist Hofer, husband ofConstanze's sister Josefa, the Queen of the Night, sangtenor, and Franz Gerl, whose wife played Papagena,while he took the part of Sarastro, sang bass. It is saidthat Mozart burst into tears and could go no further whenit came to the Lacrimosa, of which, incidentally, he hadwritten only the first eight bars. This was in theafternoon. In the evening his condition worsened and hedied at five minutes to one on the morning of 5thDecember, to be buried a day or so later in an unmarkedgrave, following the simpler funeral customs establishedby Joseph II.
It might have been expected that Constanze, whoneeded the rest of the fee for the work, would entrust thecompletion of the Requiem to her husband's pupil andher own frequent companion Franz Xaver S??ssmayr.
Instead, apparently out of pique, she asked JosephEybler, who had assisted Mozart in rehearsals for Cos?¼fan tutte, to finish the composition and the scoring. Helater gave up the task and the unfinished score finallycame into the hands of S??ssmayr, so that the best knownform of the Requiem is that started by Mozart, continuedbriefly by Eybler and completed by S??ssmayr. Recentyears have seen attempts to replace these additions andremodel the work from Mozart's surviving sketches.
Mozart had completed the composition and scoringof the Introit and Kyrie, used by S??ssmayr for the finalCommunion, Lux aeterna. The great Sequence, the Diesirae, with its vivid musical depiction of the LastJudgement, was sketched fairly fully up to theLacrimosa, a point at which Eybler too gave up.
S??ssmayr continued the Lacrimosa for a further 22 bars,completing it. Mozart had written the voice parts and thebass of the Offertory, as he had for much of the Diesirae, and this S??ssmayr completed. The Sanctus,Benedictus and Agnus Dei are by S??ssmayr. It should beadded that Count Walsegg was not deterred from hisoriginal intention and on 14th December 1793 had theRequiem performed as his own composition, animposture that seemed to bring him great satisfaction.
Inter natos mulierum, K.72, is a setting of theoffertory for the feast of St John the Baptist and waswritten in Salzburg in May or June 1771. In MarchMozart and his father had returned from an extendedItalian journey that had brought study of counterpointwith Padre Martini in Bologna and an operacommissioned for Milan, leading later in the year to asecond commission in Milan and their return there fromAugust to December. The work is scored for choir,organ, and an orchestra of strings and three trombones.
Misericordias Domini, K.222, scored for choir, stringsand organ, was written in 1775 in Munich, where a newopera had been commissioned. In a letter to PadreMartini Mozart enclosed his composition for histeacher's approval, explaining that it had been written insome haste for performance at High Mass the followingSunday. The offertory setting, with its deployment ofcounterpoint, won Padre Martini's unstinting praise,meeting, as he said, all the demands of modern music.Keith Anderson