CONDUCTOR'S NOTES by John Currie
The extraordinary circumstances surrounding the creation of Mozart's Requiem in D minor, K. 626 will probably never be fully unraveled, and I have always advised the listener and the musician to trust to the evidence of what we hear, and the internal evidence in the score itself. The authentication of a work of art does not make it any better or worse. I have studied at least two of the more recent attempts to make "authentic" versions of the work, and both of these decrease the stature and lower the temperature of the performing experience compared to the standard "received" version, whoever wrote or did not write certain parts. I like to think that Sophie Haibel, Mozart's sister-in-law, was truthful when she spoke years later: “Süssmayr was at Mozart's bedside. The well-known Requiem lay on the quilt and Mozart was explaining how, in his opinion, he ought to finish it when he was gone ... His last movement was to attempt to express with his mouth the drum passages in the Requiem. That I can still hear."
But there can never be a final opinion on how much of the work, if any, is by Süssmayr . On the evidence of earlier works like the fine Litaniae Lauretanae, K. 195, and earlier settings of the Mass by Mozart, I have a strong feeling that somewhere towards the end, probably in the Agnus Dei, there would have been a ravishing soprano solo, and my knowledge of The Magic Flute convinces me that the Benedictus is a great movement, surely a reworking by a master craftsman of material by Mozart.
At all events, particularly since Amadeus, the play and the film, it is to be regretted that the life of Mozart has, for the general public, become more important than the music.
The work is one of Europe's great masterpieces. The opening movement is essential Mozart of the late period: the two basset-horns (like clarinets, but softer, darker) and bassoons weep, while the choral and string parts are alive with classical strength and optimism. The Dies Irae is the wrath of chariots and the flight of swift horses, truly classical, rather than the theatrical terror of Don Giovanni. Later, the Recordare is one of Mozart's most heavenly ensembles (again with crucial basset-horns) while Confutatis dissolves in deeply disturbing harmonic shifts at "gere curam." Although the ninth bar of the beautiful Lacrimosa, we are told, was the last Mozart wrote, explicit and detailed sketches existed for later parts of the work. It is these that some other skilled hand has realized to give us whole experience of the Requiem setting as we hear it tonight.
Earlier in to-night's concert you will hear two works written in the final weeks of Mozart's life. Ave Verum is an astonishing miniature. Here is real late Mozart; distilled, intense and distinctly non-Italian in style. The little Freemason Cantata was literally his swan-song. His association with the Masons was clearly an important factor in his life, particularly at the end. Today's audience should remember that Freemasonry in Mozart's time had strong overtones of the Enlightenment and humanistic philosophy (the philosophy of The Magic Flute). It was also, in many minds associated with revolution. But here, in the final days of the young genius's life, he composes a joyful celebration of brotherly love, framed by a cheerful chorus and including a Masonic hymn for the exit from the meeting. But listen to the tenor recitatives: they are like the majestic, human music of the Speaker in The Magic Flute. This is Mozart's tragedy: he had much, much more to write, and every sign suggests that his future music would have been new, remarkable, and probably very German.
The Masonic Funeral Music, although mature Mozart, is the one piece in our concert which does not come from the final months of the final year (1791). It is unique in the Mozart canon, but shares a tragic, brooding quality with some of his other minor-key works. It is full of symbols, the most obvious of which is the use of three basset-horns, an instrument which, in shape and use, was associated with wind bands in Freemasonic rituals in Mozart's time. The ancient chant which pervades the piece is Catholic, associated with the Passion. For me, Robbins Landon's remark rings true to the music: "With its message of comfort - the last chord, in C major, envelops one like the Madonna enclosing the mourners with her widespread cloak in a medieval painting - the Masonic Funeral Music is the essence of Mozart, his humanity and (in all senses) his passion."
HISTORICAL NOTES by
Richard H. Trame, S.J., Ph.D.
Mozart's Ave Verum is one of music's most sublime Eucharistic motets. Mozart composed it on June 17, 1791 for Anton Stoll, teacher and choirmaster of a little Viennese suburban church in Baden. Because of the church's limited resources, he scored it for chorus, strings and organ. As the late Karl Geiringer has noted, seldom has so much fervor and classical beauty been poured into so tiny a vessel, this motet of forty-six measures.
Mozart produced several compositions to celebrate events occasioned by his membership in the Masonic order. The most significant and weighty of these works is his Masonic Funeral Music in C minor (KV 477) composed in July, 1785, to commemorate the death of two brothers, Count Franz von Esterhazy, his patron and friend, and the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Henri Gheon comments on this work: "I know of no page in a symphony, fuller, more touching, more sober or daring, more in advance of its time than that incredible lament."
On November 18, 1791, Mozart conducted his Masonic Cantata (KV 623) at the dedication of the new lodge "Newly Crowned Hope." It is his last composed complete work, the last to be entered in his hand into the catalogue of his compositions. Schikaneder, librettist of The Magic Flute, produced the text "Let our joy ring out loudly" which Mozart scored for opening and closing three-part male chorus framing tenor recitatives and aria and a Tenor-Bass duet, accompanied by an orchestra of flutes, oboes, horns, and strings. The Cantata is strongly redolent of the spirit and tone of The Magic Flute. Among the great Requiem Mass compositions which grace the standard repertoire is that of Mozart. In recent years this well-beloved and majestic musical torso has been subjected to ever closer scrutiny with respect to its origins and the authenticity of present performing editions.
The standard "received" version of the Mozart Requiem, commissioned somewhat after February, 1791, by Count Franz von Walsegg for a proposed fee of some 3000 francs, was completed in the spring of 1792, months after Mozart's death on December 5, 1791, by Franz Xavier Süssmayr (1766- 1803). Süssmayr’s achievement came increasingly under strong criticism respecting his orchestration especially from such musicians as Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, and Bruno Walter. Subsequently, the editors of the modern critical works of Mozart in the Neue Mozart Ausgabe assert that Süssmayr’s version cannot be seen as representing Mozart's intentions. Indeed, Süssmayr himself felt that his work did not do justice to these intentions.
To understand the problems connected with Mozart's Requiem it is necessary to know its compositional circumstances. Between July and November, 1791, Mozart completed in full score, voices and orchestration, the Introit Requiem aeternam and probably the Kyrie eleison. He subsequently wrote out the voice parts, the harmonic foundation, and some instrumental leads, but no full score, for the Sequence Dies !rae up to the eighth measure of the poem's last verse, Lacrimosa. He did so similarly with the Offertory Domine Jesu Christe. There are no autographed manuscripts at all for the Sanctus. Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. Thus these finished and unfinished movements together with some sketches (how many we do not know) constitute the compositional status of the Requiem at Mozart's untimely death.
Joseph Eybler, a respected pupil of Mozart, at Constanza Mozart's request undertook to complete the commissioned work on December 21, 1791. He scored most of the Dies Irae, but gave up before the magnitude of the task. His instrumentation is highly regarded and critics regret that he did not pursue the task to completion. Most observe that it was much more perceptive of Mozart's intentions than Süssmayr’s which was completed in March, 1792. After receiving the music from Constanza, Count Walsegg made his own copy, placed his name on it, performed it twice in memory of his wife in 1793 and 1794, before admitting to the fraud.
The crux of the matter lies in the enduring disputes respecting what constituted Mozart's authentic composition, what he intended, and how authentically Süssmayr carried out his wishes. Opinion fluctuates between that ably represented by the conservative arguments of the German scholar Friedrich Blume, writing in 1962, and more radical views. Blume concluded after an examination of the available sources that the whole work is essentially Mozart's. The noted objections of Strauss, Britten, and Walter were addressed in 1971 by Franz Beyer, who in his Eulenberg edition of the score strove to correct Süssmayr’s deficiencies. In 1988 Richard Maunder of Cambridge University produced a revised version which he describes at length and strives to justify in his book, Mozart's Requiem, On Preparing a New Edition (Oxford U.P.) The whole dispute finds expression in the title of Blume's article referred to above. It expresses something of the ironic and irreconcilable nature of the controversy: "Requiem, but No Peace."
Recent research has put to rest several "legends" about the composition of the Mozart Requiem. No ghostly gray-mantled harbinger of death a Ia Amadeus commissioned the work, but a known agent of Count Walsegg, an Austrian industrialist and landowner. Mozart was not obsessed with thoughts of impending death in the course of its composition, but appears to have been during the Fall of 1791 in good health and ebullient spirits resulting from the success of Magic Flute. Recent medical research into the health of the great Viennese classical composers by an Austrian musician-physician reveals that Mozart's final illness could have been prevented through the administration of copious drinks of water rather than subjecting him to the practice of "bleeding."
Otto Jahn in 1855 after completing his Life of Mozart wrote of the Requiem. "The view upheld in the opera Magic Flute that serious ideas must be expressed in corresponding severity of form is even more decided in the Requiem, in so far as Mozart must have regarded as natural and inevitable the identification of certain fixed forms with the musical expression of religious emotion in an act of worship. The praiseworthy feeling which leads an artist, who believes himself to be offering his work for the service of the Most High, to bestow his best thoughts and his best workmanship upon it, cannot fail also to have influenced Mozart . . .
The chief significance of the Requiem rests herein ... it proves these (liturgical) forms to be in fact, when artistically conceived and scientifically handled, capable of giving appropriate expression to the deepest emotions in which the human heart finds vent."