Mozart’s Requiem

This week I continue my music series on City Connect, reporting on famous classical compositions. This time I will discuss Mozart’s Requiem, one of the most famous classical compositions of all times, which also happens to be my personal favourite of all music.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 in the city of Salzburg which was part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. He was a child progeny and finished his first compositions at a very young age. After a life as a successful and renowned musician in the entirety of Europe, he died in 1791 at the young age of only 35. He started work on his Requiem in 1790 and he never finished it. This Requiem is one of the most enigmatic pieces of music that has ever been composed, mostly because of the myths and controversies surrounding it, especially around how much of the piece was completed by Wolfgang before his death.

The piece was finished by one of Mozart’s former students Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Until today it is still being disputed how much Mozart actually composed of the music. Other composers, such as Joseph von Eybler, have been suggested to having been involved. Furthermore, it is unclear if Mozart left some sketches or ideas about the movements after the Lacrimosa, which are believed to having been composed almost entirely by Süssmayr.

This piece of music is stunning and up to today one of the most played classical music pieces of all times.

The Requiem is divided into 14 parts:

1. Introitus Requiem

The opening movement of the requiem has a very slow crescendo building up to the choir singing Requiem, requiem aeternam, dona eis – Grant them eternal rest. The first notes of this music put me into a trance and into a complete bubble until the performance is finished. Mozart then continues the fugue style introduced by the choir and introduces the solo singers one after another: soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

2.Kyrie

Kyrie eleison! Lord have mercy upon us. This powerful movement starts with the choir in forte. The prayer is sung over and over and introduced by the male voices and then echoed by the female voices of the choir. Afterwards the roles are reversed, giving the entire movement a hectic character creating a feeling of awe in the listener. It ends in a heavy forte bridging over to the next movement.

3. Dies Irae

Dies Irae – The Day of Wrath. Again, the choir introduces the movement in a powerful forte. The string instruments accompany the music in a frantic style and one cannot but feel the words echo in the bones.

4. Tuba Mirum

A trumpet spreading a wondrous sound. Mozart really took the words literally and composed a slow movement carried by a single trumpet at the beginning of the movement until it builds up more powerfully.

5. Rex Tremendae

King of awful majesty. This movement is introduced by the choir and is a slower but heavy movement really captivating the listener and creating a sense of wondrous awe.

6. Recordare

Remember blessed Jesus. This movement is slow and delicate, building up expectations for the next movement. It is dominated by the solo singers.

7. Confutatis Maledictis

When the accursed have been confounded. This movement makes one really feel about the sinners that are accused here.

8. Lacrimosa

The Lacrimosa is the most famous of all the movements, in particular as it is thought to be the last music Mozart ever composed. Probably only the first few chords were composed my the maestro himself and the movement was finished by Süssmayr. It is my personal favourite and fully captivates me every single time I listen to it.

9. Domine Jesu

This movement has a more frantic style and almost seems simpler than the previous movements. The style is definitely different which may hint towards Süssmayr’s influence?

10. Hostias

We offer to you … This movement is slower again and makes the listener reflect. It has a powerful crescendo that “makes you sit firmly in your seats”

11. Sanctus

Holy, holy, holy! The choir introduces the movements with these words. It is a intense movement celebrating the holiness of god. The Hosanna in Excelsis is composed in the fugue style that hints towards Mozart’s education.

12. Benedictus

Blessed is the who cometh in the name of the Lord. The alto and soprano introduce this movement and it is slowly building up.

13. Agnus Dei

This movement is very powerful and is more reminiscent of the typical style of Mozart. Many believe that the maestro himself had composed part of this movement, as it is so typical for him.

14. Lux Aeterna

The Requiem finishes with the “eternal light”. It is almost calming to the listener and sounds like a more resolved version of the first movement. This bridges the Requiem well and gives an impression of all-roundedness and finishes the circle of Life and Death. The eternal light! Listen and be amazed!

Here some selected recordings on Youtube:

CM Giulini, 1979 – Philharmonia Orchestra

Vienna State Orchestra

 

You can also order a fantastic recording by the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester on Amazon UK:

 

Image reproduced from http://grumel.nicolas.free.fr
Video reproduced from YouTube / davidhertzberg and ComposerJMA

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About Sebastian Müller

Sebastian Müller was born and raised in Leipzig/Germany and moved to England as an adolescent. He is a trained research chemist and geneticist and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut Curie in Paris/ France working in cancer research. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and is still actively involved at the university today. He is fluent in English, German and French and has many fortés and interests including science, philosophy, linguistics, history, competitive sports such as rowing, fitness and nutrition. He is a freelance writer also drawing from his experience as an author in peer-reviewed scientific journals. "I love writing and putting my thoughts down on paper. The written word to me is one of the most powerful ways of conveying thoughts and initiating discussions."
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