Mozart, “Requiem: I. Introitus: Requiem aeternam - Magdalena Hajossyo,” performed by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Requiem Mass in D minor (K. 626) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was composed in Vienna in 1791, during the last year of the composer’s life. The requiem was Mozart’s last composition and is one of his most popular and respected works, although the question of how much of the music Mozart managed to complete before his death and how much was later composed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr or others is still debated.
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 or harpsichord). The vocal forces include soprano, contralto, tenor, and bass soloists and a SATB mixed choir.
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 (a double fugue) 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 have been briefly indicated, such as the violin part of the Confutatis and the musical bridges in the Recordare. The last movement of the sequence, the Lacrimosa, 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
The eccentric count Franz von Walsegg commissioned the Requiem from Mozart anonymously through intermediaries acting on his behalf. The count, an amateur chamber musician who routinely commissioned works by composers and passed them off as his own, 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. 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 Lacrimosa. 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. Following 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, who had already helped the ailing Mozart in writing the score, since in his final days the composer’s limbs had become extremely swollen. Süssmayr borrowed some of Eybler’s work in making his completion, and added his own orchestration to the movements from the Dies Irae onward (the Kyrie was orchestrated before either Süssmayr or Eybler began their work), completed the Lacrimosa, 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. Whether or not that is true, some people consider it unlikely that Mozart would have repeated the opening two sections if he had survived to finish the work completely. However, the fact that the work ends with a recapitulation of the first movement creates a work which, overall, displays characteristics of sonata form, which may help to authenticate the idea for the repetition of the first movement as the final movement. As has often been stated, Mozart was not the only composer to do this, and many requiems written before his repeat the first movement as the last. (In regular Masses a similar practice existed where the last movement, the Agnus Dei, was indicated only by the words “ut Kyrie”, “as the Kyrie”.)
The Requiem is divided into fourteen movements, with the following structure:
- I. Introitus: Requiem aeternam (choir and soprano solo)
- II. Kyrie eleison (choir)
- III. Sequentia (text based on sections of the Dies Irae):
- Dies irae (choir)
- Tuba mirum (soprano, contralto, tenor and bass solo)
- Rex tremendae majestatis (choir)
- Recordare, Jesu pie (soprano, contralto, tenor and bass solo)
- Confutatis maledictis (choir)
- Lacrimosa dies illa (choir)
- IV. Offertorium:
- Domine Jesu Christe (choir with solo quartet)
- Versus: Hostias et preces (choir)
- V. Sanctus:
- Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth (choir)
- Benedictus (solo quartet, then choir)
- VI. Agnus Dei (choir)
- VII. Communio:
- Lux aeterna (soprano solo and choir)
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 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.