Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Notes on the revision and completion of Mozart's Requiem by Robert D. Levin
Mozart's Requiem - the composer's last and unfinished work - was commissioned by Count Franz von Walsegg, who wished to have it performed in memory of his departed wife as his own composition. In order not to forfeit the handsome commission fee, Mozart's widow Constanze decided to have the work completed in secrecy, so that the finished version could b presented as her husband's final effort. The requiem is known to the general public in the version undertaken immediately after Mozart's death by his pupil Franz Xaver Sussmayr.
In order to clarify the source situation , a synopsis of movements appears below. The work in its traditional form, as finished by Sussmayr, consists of 14 sections.
 INTROITUS (Requiem aeternam)
 Dies irae
 Tuba mirum
 Rex tremendae
 Domine Jesu
 SANCTUS and Osanna
 Benedictus and reprise of the Osanna
 AGNUS DEI
 Lux Aeterna and Cum sanctis tuis
The musical sources of the Requiem are as follows.
Because Eybler's completion of the SEQUENCE ( -) was entered into Mozart's manuscript, Sussmayr had to copy out Mozart's fragment from the SEQUENCE onwards as part of his own completion. The completed version of the Requiem consisted of Mozart's autograph of the INTROITUS and KYRIE (the latter with Freystadtler's and Sussmayr's orchestration) and Sussmayr's manuscript of the rest. Bearing a forged signature "di me W. A. Mozart mpr 1792" in Sussmayr's hand on the first page of the score, it was sent to the Count - after Constanze had it copied, in violation of the terms of the contract. (In further violation of the contract, she had the work published by Breitkopf & Hartel, in 1799).
A description of the sources does not answer the fundamental question as in whether any - and if so, how many - sections of the Requiem that are not in Mozart's hand were based on his ideas. Both Constanze and Sussmayr claimed that these movements were completely Sussmary's work. Nonetheless, this claim has been contested. Over the years some specialists have insisted that some of this music is of a quality that Sussmayr could not have produced unaided. However, there has always been a contrary view.
The attacks against Sussmayr's completion began in 1825, when the so-called '"Requiem Controversy" erupted. Indeed, Sussmayr commits serious flaws which are foreign to Mozart's idiom. These errors, which incidentally are also to be found in Sussmayr's completion of the second movement to Mozart's Horn Concerto in D major, K. 412 (likewise composed in 1791, the year of his death), encompass grammatical and compositional issues. e.g., glaring parallel fifths in the orchestral accompaniment of the SANCTUS (m. 4, Violin I/Soprano), the Hosanna fugue's clumsy voice leading and insufficient length, and the reprise of the fugue after the Benedictus not in the original key of D major, but in B-flat major, which conflicts with normal 18th-century church music practice. Such obvious flaws, which characterize Sussmayr's entire completion, might easily prompt the conclusion that the SANCTUS/Hosanna, Benedictus and ANGUS DEI are the exclusive product of Sussmayr's pen. This hypothesis, widely accepted in the scholarly community, is nonetheless challenged by revealing details in the traditional completion.
Sussmayr's own works allow us to compare his compositional procedures with those of the Requiem completion. From this comparison it emerges that Sussmayr normally composed movement by movement, without regard for overall thematic integrity in a multi-movement work. In this regard he resembles the majority of his contemporaries, who seem to have favoured apparent thematic variety to rigorous fragment is characterized by tight motivic and structural relationships.
Fiven the back of such thematic relationships in Sussmayr's own works, we would scarcely expect them to appear in his completion of the Requiem. However the movements attributed to him display the same thematic unity found in Mozart's fragment. How is it possible that this motivic consistency can be observed only in a single work of Sussmayr? Moreover, within the parts attributed to Sussmayr there are unmistakable discrepancies between idiomatically Mozartean lines and incorrect voice leadings.
These findings give credence to the theory that the "few scraps of music" (Constanze Mozart) which Sussmayr was given by Constanze together with Mozart's manuscript contained material not found in Mozart's draft. That such "scraps" existed can no longer be doubted since Wolfgang Plath's discovery of the sketch leaf mentioned above. We also know that Constanze and Nissen destroyed many Mozart sketches in 1799. Whether these included Requiem sketches can no longer be ascertained. It is also quite possible that Mozart suggested certain ideas to Sussmayr on the piano. While such hypothesis are in the realm of speculation, it is to be stressed that the state of affairs described above cannot be reconciled with Sussmayr's exclusive authorship.
By Robert D. Levin (c)1996
Extract from the CD booklet of Mozart Requiem, Revised and completed by Robert D. Levin
The unique circumstances surrounding the composition of Mozart’s Requiem are remarkable for their almost Dickensian melodrama.
Just a few weeks before his own death in 1791 at the age of only thirty-five, Mozart was approached by a gentleman acting on behalf of an anonymous patron who wished to commission from him a Requiem Mass. This patron we now know to be Count Franz von Wazlsegg-Stuppach, whose wife had died in February that year. The Count, who was a keen and able amateur musician, wished to be regarded as a major composer and saw in this commemorative commission an opportunity to further his own ends by passing off the Requiem as his own. He therefore conducted all business transactions with Mozart in secrecy so as to preserve his own anonymity; hence the subterfuge of sending a business agent to act on his behalf. On several occasions this gentleman arrived unannounced at the composer’s house. To the dying Mozart, well known for his superstitious nature and quite possibly sensing his own impending demise, these mysterious visitations had all the hallmarks of the supernatural.
By the time he started work on the Requiem Mozart was already terminally ill, and parts of the composition were actually written whilst on his death-bed. In the event, he died before he could complete it, to the great consternation of his widow, Constanze. Payment for the work had already been received, and she feared that if it was handed over incomplete the commissioning patron would refuse to accept it and expect his money to be returned. She therefore decided to elicit the help of some other composer who might be able and willing to finish it for her, but despite several attempts being made, notably by Joseph Eybler and Maximilian Stadler, none came to fruition. Eventually Constanze approached Franz Süssmayr. There were many advantages to this arrangement; Süssmayr was one of Mozart’s more able pupils and had been with him a good deal during the final year of his life. He had several times played through the completed parts and discussed the instrumentation with Mozart. Why, then, had Süssmayr been not been Constanze’s first choice, despite the fact that he had been the composer’s closest musical confidante and knew what his intentions were in respect of the Requiem? This is but one of several intriguing questions, the answers to which we will almost certainly never know, but which will no doubt continue to fascinate musical historians.
Of the work’s twelve movements only the opening Kyrie had Mozart managed to complete in its entirety. For most of the others he had written the vocal parts and a figured bass line (a kind of harmonic shorthand), leaving just the orchestration, for which he had clearly indicated his intentions. These movements may therefore be regarded as essentially the work of the master. For reasons unknown, Mozart postponed writing the seventh movement, the Lacrymosa, until after writing movements eight and nine, but managed only the first eight bars before death at last overtook him. He left a number of other fragments, such as the trombone solo at the opening of the Tuba Mirum. Süssmayr completed the Lacrymosa, and composed the whole of the last three movements, Mozart having passed away before he could even begin these sections.
Süssmayr used substantial parts of the orchestration begun by Stadler and Eybler, and for the closing passages he repeated Mozart’s own music from the opening movement, an idea which according to Constanze, Mozart himself had suggested. Much more daunting, however, was the task of writing the entire Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei himself, the prospect of which had defeated his reputedly more talented fellow-composers. Eybler, for instance, despite contributing some worthwhile orchestration, had managed only two very unconvincing bars of the Lacrymosa before giving up and returning the entire portfolio to Constanze. Süssmayr was evidently made of sterner stuff, and by the end of 1792 he had finished the task. Opinions differ as to the quality of the Süssmayr movements, though it is generally agreed that the Agnus Dei is the most successful.
A copy was made of the completed score before it was handed over to Count Walsegg’s envoy, but no mention was made of Süssmayr’s part in its composition and for many years it was generally believed that Mozart had indeed written the entire Requiem. Amongst Mozart’s circle, however, it was common knowledge that the composer had not lived to see its completion. Consequently, some considerable controversy later ensued as to the work’s authenticity, compounded by the fact that Count Walsegg’s score disappeared for nearly fifty years, to be rediscovered only in 1839. Fortunately, this complete score and Mozart’s original unfinished manuscripts did both survive, and are now securely housed in the Vienna State Library. Comparison of the two sources has shown quite clearly which parts Mozart either wrote down or indicated in the form of sketches and footnotes, and which parts were completed and composed by his pupil. However, the matter is not quite that straightforward. Since Mozart is known to have played through and discussed the music with Süssmayr, it seems more than likely that he would have passed on ideas that he carried in his head but had not yet written down, and for this reason we can never be entirely sure of precisely what is Mozart’s and what Süssmayr’s. But all this conjecture is of little consequence as we listen to the music. It is Mozart’s genius that shines through.
1. Requiem Aeternam – Kyrie Eleison
2. Dies Irae
3. Tuba Mirum
4. Rex Tremendae Majestatis
6. Confutatis Maledictis
8. Domine Jesu
12. Agnus Dei
Fareham Philharmonic Choir
(Reproduce with permission from Mr Creasy)
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