Mozart’s Requiem in D minor K. 626

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

I recently saw a film that had excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem in it. I sang in this piece about 20-25 years ago. When you know a piece this well, hearing it again can be very meaningful. This post has one of the best Requiea that has ever been recorded.  Bruno Walter conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in 1956, and it is what is posted here. The soloists are Lisa della Casa (s), Ira Malaniuk (m), Anton Dermota (T), and Cesare Siepi (B). These singers were all very well known and respected in their time. There one German tendency that I would like to point out because it really irritates me. It is the pronunciation of the letter “c”. If there is a vowel after a “c”, the Romans would have pronounced it as a hard c as in “cat”. Church Latin would make it sound Italian, like “che” for an English speaker. But the Germans have their own pronunciation, which they insist is historical. It is “ts”. I can’t give you a reason for which they do this, but it is very irritating, at least to me.

The Requiem in D Minor, K. 626, requiem mass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, left incomplete at his death on December 5, 1791. Until the late 20th century the work was most often heard as it had been completed by Mozart’s student Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Later completions have since been offered, and the most favorably received among these is one by American musicologist Robert D. Levin.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in full Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, (born January 27, 1756, Salzburg, archbishopric of Salzburg [Austria]—died December 5, 1791, Vienna), Austrian composer, widely recognized as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music. With Haydn and Beethoven he brought to its height the achievement of the Viennese Classical school. Unlike any other composer in musical history, he wrote in all the musical genres of his day and excelled in every one. His taste, his command of form, and his range of expression have made him seem the most universal of all composers; yet, it may also be said that his music was written to accommodate the specific tastes of particular audiences.

Mozart’s Place
At the time of his death Mozart was widely regarded not only as the greatest composer of the time but also as a bold and “difficult” one; Don Giovanni especially was seen as complex and dissonant, and his chamber music as calling for outstanding skill in its interpreters. His surviving manuscripts, which included many unpublished works, were mostly sold by Constanze to the firm of André in Offenbach, which issued editions during the 19th century. But Mozart’s reputation was such that even before the end of the 18th century two firms had embarked on substantial collected editions of his music. Important biographies appeared in 1798 and 1828, the latter by Constanze’s second husband; the first scholarly biography, by Otto Jahn, was issued on Mozart’s centenary in 1856. The first edition of the Köchel catalog followed six years later, and the first complete edition of his music began in 1877.

The works most secure in the repertory during the 19th century were the three operas least susceptible to changes in public taste—Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Die Zauberflöte—and the orchestral works closest in spirit to the Romantic era—the minor-key piano concertos (Beethoven wrote a set of cadenzas for the one in D Minor) and the last three symphonies. It was only in the 20th century that Mozart’s music began to be reexamined more broadly. Although up to the middle of the century Mozart was still widely regarded as having been surpassed in most respects by Beethoven, with the increased historical perspective of the later 20th century he came to be seen as an artist of a formidable, indeed perhaps unequaled, expressive range. The traditional image of the child prodigy turned refined drawing-room composer, who could miraculously conceive an entire work in his head before setting pen to paper (always a distortion of the truth), gave way to the image of the serious and painstaking creative artist with acute human insight, whose complex psychology demanded exploration by writers, historians, and scholars. The 1980 play Amadeus (written by Peter Shaffer) and especially its film version of 1984 (directed by Miloš Forman), although they did much to promote interest in Mozart, reinforced certain myths—i.e., that even as an adult Mozart remained an inappropriately childish vessel for divinely inspired music and that his premature death was brought about by Salieri. Yet even in this indulgent appropriation of Mozart’s legacy, his full-blooded humanity emerges at times with haunting vividness.

Latin version of of Mozart’s Requiem

I. Introit: Requiem

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam,
ad te omnis care veniet.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

II. Kyrie
Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.

III. Sequence

1. Dies irae
Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla,
teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus!

2. Tuba mirum
Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulcra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet, apparebit,
nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?

3. Rex tremendae
Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos savas gratis,
salve me, fons pietatis.

4. Recordare
Recordare, Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae;
ne me perdas illa die.
Quaerens me, sedisti lassus,
redemisti crucem passus;
tantus labor non sit cassus.
Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.
Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
culpa rubet vultus meus;
supplicanti parce, Deus.
Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.
Preces meae non sunt dignae,
sed tu, bonus, fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta,
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

5. Confutatis
Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis,
voca me cum benedictus.
Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis,
gere curam mei finis.

6. Lacrimosa
Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

IV. Offertory
I. Domine Jesu
Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
libera animas omnium fidelium
defunctorum de poenis inferni
et de profundo lacu.
Libera eas de ore leonis,
ne absorbeat eas tartarus,
ne cadant in obscurum.
Sed signifer sanctus Michael
repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam.
Quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.

2. Hostias
Hostias et preces tibi, Domine,
laudis offerimus.
Tu sucipe pro animabus illis,
quaram hodie memoriam facimus.
Fac eas, Domine,
de morte transire ad vitam,
Quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.

V. Agnus Dei
Agnus Dei, qui tollis
peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis
peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis
peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem sempiternam.

VI. Communion:
Lux aeterna
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Requiem aeternum dona eis,
Domine,
et Lux perpetua luceat eis,
cum Sanctus tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.

English translation of the Latin

I. Introit: Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.
You are praised, God, in Zion,
and homage will be paid to You in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer, to You all flesh will come.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.

II. Kyrie
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

III. Sequence
1. Days of Wrath
Day of wrath, day of anger
will dissolve the world in ashes,
as foretold by David and the Sibyl.
Great trembling there will be
when the Judge descends from heaven
to examine all things closely.

2.Tuba mirum
The trumpet will send its wondrous sound
throughout earth’s sepulchers
and gather all before the throne.

Death and nature will be astounded,
when all creation rises again,
to answer the judgment.
A book will be brought forth,
in which all will be written,
by which the world will be judged.

When the judge takes his place,
what is hidden will be revealed,
nothing will remain unavenged.

What shall a wretch like me say?
Who shall intercede for me,
when the just ones need mercy?

3. Rex Tremendae
King of tremendous majesty,
who freely saves those worthy ones,
save me, source of mercy.

4. Recordare
Remember, kind Jesus,
my salvation caused your suffering;
do not forsake me on that day.
Faint and weary you have sought me,
redeemed me, suffering on the cross;
may such great effort not be in vain.
Righteous judge of vengeance,
grant me the gift of absolution
before the day of retribution.
I moan as one who is guilty:
owning my shame with a red face;
suppliant before you, Lord.
You, who absolved Mary,
and listened to the thief,
give me hope also.

My prayers are unworthy,
but, good Lord, have mercy,
and rescue me from eternal fire.
Provide me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
guiding me to Your right hand.

5. Confutatis
When the accused are confounded,
and doomed to flames of woe,
call me among the blessed.
I kneel with submissive heart,
my contrition is like ashes,
help me in my final condition.

6. Lacrimosa
That day of tears and mourning,
when from the ashes shall arise,
all humanity to be judged.
Spare us by your mercy, Lord,
gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest. Amen.

IV Offertory
1. Domine Jesu
Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
liberate the souls of the faithful,
departed from the pains of hell
and from the bottomless pit.
Deliver them from the lion’s mouth,
lest hell swallow them up,
lest they fall into darkness.
Let the standard-bearer, holy Michael,
bring them into holy light.
Which was promised to Abraham
and his descendants.

2. Hostia
Sacrifices and prayers of praise, Lord,
we offer to You.
Receive them in behalf of those souls
we commemorate today.
And let them, Lord,
pass from death to life,
which was promised to Abraham
and his descendants.

V. Agnus Dei
Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
grant them eternal rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
Grant them eternal rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
grant them eternal rest forever.

VI. Communion:
Let eternal light shine on them, Lord,
as with Your saints in eternity,
because You are merciful.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them,
as with Your saints in eternity,
because You are merciful.

At the time of the composition of the Requiem, Mozart was deeply engaged with the writing of two operas: The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito (“The Clemency of Titus”). Together the three assignments were too much for a man suffering from a succession of debilitating fevers. Most of his failing strength went into the operas, both of which were completed and staged. As for the requiem, he worked on it when strength permitted, and several friends came to his apartment December 4, 1791, to sing through the score-in-progress. Yet his condition worsened, and, by the time of Mozart’s death early the next morning, he had finished only the “Introit.” The “Kyrie,” “Sequence,” and “Offertorium” were sketched out. The last three movements—“Benedictus,” “Agnus Dei,” and “Communio”—remained unwritten, and nearly all the orchestration was incomplete.

Confining musical discussion to those portions of the requiem that are mostly from Mozart’s own mind, the orchestra most often focuses on the strings, with woodwinds featured when greater poignancy is needed and brass and timpani largely relied on for forceful moments. Particularly in the vocal writing, Mozart’s intricate contrapuntal layers show the influence of the Baroque masters J.S. Bach and George Frideric Handel.

Especially in the “Sequence,” Mozart underlines the power of the text by setting prominent trombone passages against the voices: chorus in the “Dies Irae” and soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists in the “Tuba Mirum.” It is the most prominent use of the trombone in Mozart’s entire catalog.

Mozart was anxious to have the requiem completed, as a fee was due; it had been commissioned, in memory of his wife, by Count von Walsegg-Stuppach to pass off as his own. He handed it first to Joseph Eybler, who supplied some orchestration but was reluctant to do more.

Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Süssmayr also spelled Süssmayer, (born 1766, Schwanenstadt, Oberösterreich [now in Austria]—died Sept. 17, 1803, Vienna), Austrian composer best known in the 20th century for having completed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem (K 626).

Süssmayr was educated at Kremsmünster, a monastery school. In 1788 he settled in Vienna and became a music teacher. He became acquainted with Mozart in 1790/91 and sometimes collaborated with him. From 1792 to 1794 Süssmayr was harpsichordist and acting Kapellmeister (musical director) of Vienna’s National Theatre; he was Kapellmeister from 1794 until his death. His most notable compositions were Der Spiegel von Arkadien (1794) and music for the ballet Il noce de Benevento (1802).

Süssmayr’s handwriting in the manuscript of Mozart’s Requiem makes clear that he completed a number of passages after Mozart’s death, but the degree to which Süssmayr followed detailed sketches and drafts by Mozart remains a point of dispute.