By ARTHUR F. EDWARDS
Annotator, Los Angeles Master Chorale
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
In 1635, Francesco Draghi moved from the town of Pergola to that of Jesi and so became known as the Pergolesi. When his great-grandson Giovanni went to Naples to study at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesu Christo, he was of course not known as Giovanni Pergolesi, but is found in the records as the student Jesi.
It was at the Conservatorio that he studied with Francesco Durante (1684- 1755). In fact, the composition heard on tonight's program is probably by Durante. Pergolesi wrote many compositions in his extremely short life, but nowhere near the number that has been attributed to him. Of Durante, Edward J. Dent has said, "When he is at his best, he is most touchingly beautiful, and seems to foreshadow Mozart."
In his long life, Durante had three wives (not unusual for the period): the first, a termagant who lived for the lottery; the second, a young servant girl di bellissime forme; and thirdly, another servant. Durante had many illustrious pupils, among them Pergolesi, Piccinni, and Paisiello.
The Magnificat is scored for solo quartet, chorus a 4, strings (without violas), and basso continuo. The first and last movements quote the psalm tone 1f as had been done a century before by Monteverdi in his two settings of 1610. The work is in the Baroque cantata form, as are all the works on tonight's program.
Antonio Vivaldi (c. 1675-1741)
Little is known of Vivaldi's life; until recently little was known of his works. Indefatigable scholarship has unearthed an enormous catalogue of compositions, among them 447 concerti, 44 operas, and 28 secular cantatas. But research has not provided a similar illumination regarding the facts of his life. He was the son of a violinist at the Basilica di San Marco, was ordained a priest, (that and his red hair were responsible for his nickname of if Prete Rosso), and served for much of his life (1709-1740) as maestro di concerti of the Ospitale della Pieta in Venice. The Ospitale was a lavishly endowed orphanage for girls of dubious birth, and under Vivaldi's direction became famous for its concerts of singers and instrumentalists who performed from a hidden balcony.
The Gloria is scored for two soprano and one contralto soloists, chorus a 4, oboe, trumpet, strings, and basso continuo. It is pleasant to be able to state that this work is unquestionably by Vivaldi. However, the final movement is an arrangement of the final chorus of a Gloria by Giovanni Maria Ruggieri (c. 1685-1715), a Venetian opera composer. It was scored for two choruses and two orchestras. The original antiphonal character of this movement is still noticeable in Vivaldi's arrangement.
Requiem, K. 626
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
In July of 1791, one Leutgeb, steward to Count Walsegg von Ruppach, called anonymously on Mozart and commissioned him to compose a Requiem. Mozart was not given the name of the man commissioning the work and had no way of knowing that Count Walsegg planned to have it performed in the Countess' memory as Walsegg's composition. Mozart began work on the Requiem immediately and composed the vocal parts and an indication of the instrumental parts as far as the Rex Tremendae. At this point, he laid aside the Requiem to complete La Clemenza di Tito, the first performance of which he conducted in Prague on September 6. Upon his return to Vienna, he was immersed in the preparations for the first performance of Die Zauberflöte on September 30. He resumed work on the Requiem in October but again laid it aside to compose a cantata (K. 623) for a Masonic festival. By the time he returned to the Requiem, his fatal illness seemed to have been upon him. When he became bedridden he continued to dictate the notes to Franz Xavier Süssmayer (1766-1803), his pupil and factotum, the butt of his jokes, the composer of his recitatives when time was short. According to Mozart's sister-in-Jaw Sophie (who many years later wrote about his death): "Süssmayer was at Ms bedside, the well-known Requiem was on the bedspread and Mozart was explaining to him how he ought to finish it after his [Mozart's] death ... The doctor Closset was looked for all over, till they found him at the theatre: but he had to wait till the piece was over - and then he came and ordered cold [stress original] compresses to be put on [Mozart's] feverish brow, and these provided such a shock that he did not regain consciousness again before he died. The last thing he did was to imitate the kettledrums in his Requiem."
The cause of death given on the official certificate was "ein hitzeges Frieselfieber" (typhus fever). Barraud in 1905 proposed that the true cause was collapse from overwork culminating in some kind of nephritis. However in 1963 (Acta Mozartiana vol. I) Dr. Dieter Kerner of Mainz came to the conclusion that it was not a kidney ailment but chronic quicksilver poisoning. The facts of the case will never be known.
Unfortunately it is equally difficult to ascertain how much of the Requiem is by Mozart and how much by Süssmayer. The autograph ends after the eighth measure of the Lacrymosa and up to that point the instrumentation composed by Süssmayer consists of, in the words of Mozart's widow, "what anyone could have done." The same holds true for the Domine Jesu Christe and the Hostias. It is probable that much of the remainder was elaborated by Süssmayer from sketches made by Mozart and subsequently destroyed by Süssmayer. The only section scholars unanimously ascribe to Süssmayer is the ineptly truncated Hosanna of the Benedictus.
The Requiem is scored for a quartet of soloists, chorus a 4, two basset horns (tenor clarinets), two bassoons, two trumpets, three trombones (mainly added by Süssmayer), tympani, and strings.