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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART, W.A.: Requiem (arr. C. Czerny for soli, choir and piano 4 hands) (Ars Cantica Choir, Marangoni, Vincenzi, Berrini)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Miserere, K. 85 • Requiem, K. 626 (tr. Czerny) • Ave verum (tr. Clapasson)
Mozart’s first Italian journey, from December 1769 to March 1771, is described in letters that his father, who accompanied him, wrote home to his wife in Salzburg. Their tour took them as far south as Naples, and brought, among other things, a commission for an opera in Milan. In March 1770 they spent five days in Bologna, meeting there the respected musician Padre Martini. In July they were again in Bologna, where they spent three months. Here the young Mozart was able to study with Padre Martini, who was a master of the traditional stile antico, and satisfied examiners for admission to the Bologna Accademia Filarmonica, an extraordinary achievement and honour for a boy of fourteen. From this time comes Mozart’s incomplete setting of Psalm 50, his Palestrina-style counterpoint for verses 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15, scored for alto, tenor and bass with organ accompaniment, sung in alternation with the plainchant verses, which here complete the psalm.
Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a leading court musician, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, through the indulgence of his father Leopold’s employer, the Archbishop of Salzburg, had been able to amaze audiences throughout Europe as an infant prodigy. Adolescence and early manhood proved less satisfactory. Salzburg, under a new Archbishop from 1772, seemed to have little to offer, although it did provide an element of security for the family. Leopold Mozart, now Vice-Kapellmeister, had largely sacrificed his own career as a composer to that of his son, but prudence kept him in Salzburg. Mozart, however, first tried to seek his fortune elsewhere in 1777, when, having secured his dismissal from the court musical establishment, he travelled to Mannheim and to Paris, hoping to find a position that would provide scope for his genius. Unsuccessful in his quest, he returned reluctantly to Salzburg, where his father had arranged his reinstatement in the service of the Archbishop. It was largely through connections made at Mannheim that he received a request for an opera to be mounted in Munich, where the Elector now had his seat. Idomeneo, re di Creta was successful there early in 1781, but immediately afterwards Mozart was told to join the entourage of the Archbishop of Salzburg in Vienna. Here his impatience and feeling of frustration led to a break with his patron and a final period of precarious independence in Vienna, without the security of Salzburg or the immediate prudent advice of his father. At first things seemed to go well. Without seeking his father’s approval, he married one of the dowerless daughters of a jobbing Mannheim musician, but made a name for himself as a composer and performer. Nevertheless his earnings never seemed commensurate with his expenses, so that by the end of the decade he found himself constantly obliged to borrow money.
In 1791 it seemed that Mozart’s luck was turning. Although the succession of a new Emperor after the death of Joseph II lost him his minor court position as a composer of dance music, he was appointed, in May, unpaid assistant to the Kapellmeister at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, with right of succession to the aging incumbent. Together with the actor-manager Emanuel Schikaneder he was busy with a new German opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), to be mounted in the autumn, while Prague had commissioned from him a coronation opera, La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency 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 her husband had a premonition that the Requiem was an omen of his own coming death. The work had been commissioned anonymously in July 1791 by Count Franz Walsegg zu Stuppach, acting through his steward Franz Anton Leutgeb or another intermediary, who sought to commemorate the recent death of his wife by the performance of a work of this kind that he might, at least by implication, claim as his own. While no intention of this kind was revealed to Mozart, an initial fee of sixty ducats was paid, with promise of a further sum when the Requiem was completed. In the event Mozart did not live to finish the work. In November he was taken ill and within a fortnight he was dead. On 4 December he felt well enough to sing, from his bed, parts of the unfinished work. Benedikt Schack, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, sang the soprano part in falsetto, Mozart sang alto, the violinist Hofer, husband of Constanze’s sister Josefa, the Queen of the Night, sang tenor, and Franz Gerl, whose wife played Papagena, while he took the part of Sarastro, sang bass. It is said that Mozart burst into tears and could go no further when it came to the Lacrimosa, of which, incidentally, he had written only the first eight bars. This was in the afternoon. In the evening his condition worsened and he died at five minutes to one on the morning of 5 December, to be buried a day or so later in an unmarked grave, following the simpler funeral customs established by Joseph II.
It might have been expected that Constanze, who needed the rest of the fee for the work, would entrust the completion of the Requiem to her husband’s pupil and her own frequent companion Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Instead, apparently out of pique, she asked Joseph Eybler, who had assisted Mozart in rehearsals for Così fan tutte, to finish the composition and the scoring. He later gave up the task and the unfinished score finally came into the hands of Süssmayr, so that the best known form of the Requiem is that started by Mozart, continued briefly by Eybler and completed by Süssmayr. Recent years have seen attempts to replace these additions and remodel the work from Mozart’s surviving sketches.
Mozart had completed the composition and scoring of the Introit and Kyrie, used by Süssmayr for the final Communion, Lux aeterna. The great Sequence, the Dies irae, with its vivid musical depiction of the Last Judgement, was sketched fairly fully up to the Lacrimosa, a point at which Eybler too gave up. Süssmayr continued the Lacrimosa for a further 22 bars, completing it. Mozart had written the voice parts and the bass of the Offertory, as he had for much of the Dies irae, and this Süssmayr completed. The Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei are by Süssmayr. It should be added that Count Walsegg was not deterred from his original intention and on 14 December 1793 had the Requiem performed as his own composition, an imposture that seemed to bring him great satisfaction.
Born in 1791, the year of Mozart’s death, Carl Czerny, precociously gifted as a pianist, studied as a ten-year-old with Beethoven and made his first public appearance in Vienna in 1800, when he played Mozart’s C minor Piano Concerto. Impressed as he was by the performance style of Mozart, heard through Mozart’s pupil Hummel, he nevertheless became a leading exponent of the piano music of Beethoven, with its demands for a legato style suited to the newer forms of the instrument. Czerny’s principal fame, however, was as a teacher, his pupils including Thalberg, Liszt and Stephen Heller, and his pedagogical works had and continue to have wide currency. While his principal works were in the form of exercises and studies, of which he wrote a very large number, his other piano music consists of Sonatas and Sonatinas, with various medleys, variations and other shorter pieces. He wrote music for piano duet, and for up to four players, with many arrangements and transcriptions, including a number of works by Mozart. His piano duet transcription of Mozart’s Requiem was dedicated to the Abbé Maximilian Stadler, who had known Mozart and Haydn and in later years had done much to help Constanze Mozart in the completion of various fragmentary works left by Mozart. He also published a defence of the authenticity of the Requiem, to the gratitude of Mozart’s widow.
The setting of the Ave verum, K. 618, belongs to the last summer of Mozart’s life and was written in Baden, where his wife was taking the waters. It was composed for the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi and designed for his friend Anton Stoll, a schoolmaster with responsibility for a church choir. The music, in its simple clarity, represents a less formal type of church music, rather in the spirit of those Josephine reforms to which Mozart had taken considerable exception in Salzburg under the Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus von Colloredo. The work is here transcribed by the Italian pianist and composer Domenico Clapasson.
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