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Mozart’s Requiem, KV 626 in D minor

By February 14, 2021April 5th, 2023No Comments

This is one of those works that I should have written about years ago. I sang it as part of a choir in New York, and I still remember the part. I’ll go on to say more about the work later, but it is exceedingly difficult to perform. First, the choir has to blend. That alone makes most choral works difficult. Then the soloists have to blend, and they have to blend with the choir. The instruments have to blend with the soloists an the choir, and finally, everyone has to sing or play in tune. After all that comes interpretation and expression.

So, knowing the piece as I do, I have selected two performances. One conducted by Walter in 1937 with magnificent soloists, and one conducted by Böhm, more recently (if I can find the date, I will), with 4 good soloists. The interpretations are very different. You be the judge.

I would urge you to listen to the whole piece. There is really nothing like it in Western music.

German pronunciation of Religious Latin.
“Ce” would have been pronounced as “keh” in Classical Latin. Church Latin sounds like Italian “c’è”. Germans will always pronounce the consonant “c” in front of the vowel “e” as “tse”. There is one final idiosyncrasy of German pronunciation with respect to “qui” Standard Latin pronunciation. would be “kwi”. In the German language “qu” is pronounced as “kv”, and that is what you will hear when listening to these performances.

I. Introitus: 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 caro veniet.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis

II Kyrie
Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

III Sequentia
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 stopebit et natora
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 salvas gratis,
Salve me, fons pietatis.

4. Recordare
Recordare, Jesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuae viae,
Ne me perdas ilia die.

Quaerens me sedisti lassus,
Redemisti crucem passus,
Tamus labor non sit cassus.

Juste judex ultionis
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.

lngemisco tamquam reus,
Culpa rubet vultus meus,
Supplicanti parce Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sum dignae,
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremet igne.

Inter oves locurm praesta,
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parle dextra.

Confutatis maledictis
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis,
Gere curam mei finis.

6. Lacrimosa
Lacrimosa dies ilia
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.

Huic ergo parce, Deus,
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen

IV Offertorium
1.Domine Jesu
Domine, Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum
de poenis inferni, et de profundo lacu:

libera cas 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 eius.

Hostias et preces, tibi, Domine,
laudis offerimus:
tu suscipe pro animabus illis,
quarum hodie memoriam facimus:
fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam,
quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini eius.

Sanctus. Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth!
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.

4. Benedictus
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.

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

VI Communio
1.Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine:
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia plus es.

I. Introitus: Requiem
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine on them.
Thou, O God, art praised in Zion,
and unto Thee shall a vow
be performed in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer,
unto Thee shall all flesh come.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine on them.

Lord have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.

III. Sequentia
1. Day of wrath
Day of wrath, on that day
Will dissolve the earth in ashes
As David and the Sibyl bore witness.
What dread there will be
When the Judge shall comes from Heaven
To judge all things strictly.

2. Tuba mirum
A trumpet, spreading a wondrous sound
Through the graves of all lands,
Will drive mankind before the Throne.

Death and Nature shall be astonished
When all creation rises again
To answer to the judgement.

A book, with writing, will be brought forth
In which is contained everything that is,
By which the world shall be judged.

When therefore the Judge takes His seat
Whatever is hidden will reveal itself.
Nothing will remain unavenged.

What then shall I say, wretch that I am,
What advocate entreat to speak for me,
When even the righteous may hardly be secure?

3.King of Awful majesty
King of awful majesty,
Who freely savest the redeemed,
Save me, O font of goodness.
Remember, blessed Jesu,
That I am the cause of Thy pilgrimage,
Do not forsake me on that day.

Seeking me Thou didst sit down weary,
Thou didst redeem me, suffering death on the cross.
Let not such toil be in vain.

Just and avenging Judge,
Grant remission
Before the day of reckoning.

Guilty, guily.
Guilt reddens my face.
Spare a suppliant, O God.

Thou who didst absolve Mary Magdalene
And didst hearken to the thief,
To me also hast Thou given hope.

My prayers are not worthy,
But Thou in Thy merciful goodness grant
That I not burn in everlasting fire.

Place me among Thy sheep
And separate me from the goats,
Setting me on Thy right hand.

5.Confutatis (when the doomed)
When the accursed have been confounded
And given over to the bitter flames,
Call me with the blessed.

I pray in supplication on my knees.
My heart contrite as the dust,
Safeguard my fate.

Mournful that day
When from the dust shall rise
Man to be judged.

Therefore, spare him, O God.
Merciful Jesu,
Lord Grant them rest. Amen.

IV Offertory
1. Lord Jesus
Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver the souls of all the faithful
departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit.

Deliver them from the lion’s mouth.
Neither let them fall into darkness
nor the black abyss swallow them up.

And let St. Michael, Thy standard-bearer,
lead them into the holy light
which once Thou didst promise
to Abraham and his seed.

We offer unto Thee this sacrifice
of prayer and praise.
Receive it for those souls
whom today we commemorate.

Allow them, O Lord, to cross
from death into the life
which once Thou didst promise to Abraham
and his seed.

Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God of Sabaoth.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

V Agnus Dei
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
grant them everlasting rest.

VI Communion
1.Eternal Light
May eternal light shine on them, O Lord.
with Thy saints forever, because
Thou art merciful.

Grant the dead eternal rest, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine on them,
with Thy saints forever,
because Thou are merciful.


Mozart’s Requiem in D minor is an enigmatic masterpiece. The story of the creation of the work involves a shady commission, numerous composers and a blanket of deceit, purely in the interest of financial gain. It all began in July 1791, when a stranger turned up at Mozart’s door with a slightly odd request.

The commission of Mozart’s Requiem
On this early summer’s day, a man described as an “unknown grey stranger” appeared, claiming to represent a man of great importance who requested a Requiem from Mozart. One of the requirements was that Mozart must not attempt to uncover the identity of the person making the request.

Intrigued by the rules surrounding the commission, Mozart obsessively threw himself into the piece and worked on almost nothing else for several months. However, by this time, his health was deteriorating and he was unable to finish what he started. Mozart wasn’t sound of mind when he received the commission and believed he’d been cursed to write the piece as a swansong because he knew he would shortly die.

When the composer died at aged 35 on December 5, 1791, he had only succeeded in completing the Requiem and Kyrie movements in full. He left basic sketches covering the voice parts and bass lines to be performed during the Dies Irae through to the Hostias, but the entire piece was nowhere near completed.

Constanze’s money worries
To encourage Mozart to complete the work, the messenger gave him half the fee before he began, with a promise to make the remaining payment after the work was delivered. This agreement left Constanze, Mozart’s wife, with a big problem.

She was worried that if she handed over solely the work her husband had completed before his death, she wouldn’t receive the final payment and the commissioner might even request the initial payment to be refunded. She was struggling to make ends meet as it was and decided to ask other talented composers to finish what Mozart started in secret. Her plan was to deliver the finished work and claim Mozart had completed it before he died so she could collect the outstanding payment.

Completion by contemporary composers
The first composer Constanze asked to help was Joseph von Eybler. He orchestrated the music following the Kyre, but was unable to do any more and returned the unfinished Requiem to Constanze. Upon his advice, Mozart’s widow handed the work-in-progress to Franz Xaver Süssmayr, one of Mozart’s previous pupils who held a lot of knowledge about how the master composer originally intended to finish the piece.

Süssmayr borrowed a large chunk of Eybler’s work while completing the Requiem, although he also added his own orchestration to the movements following Kyrie, completed the Lacrymosa and added the signature pieces required of a Requiem, namely Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei. He completed his work by including the final section, Lux aeterna, by carefully adapting the two original opening movements written by Mozart to different words.

According to both Constanze and Süssmayr, this is how Mozart had planned to finish the Requiem. However, some critics argue that this is unlikely to be the case and Mozart would never have repeated the two opening sections if he’d survived long enough to finish the work himself.

Süssmayr rewrote the entire Requiem in his own hand, in order to make it more difficult to tell that it had been pieced together by various composers, and delivered it himself to the messenger who had requested it. To make the work as convincing as possible, Mozart’s forged signature was added, along with the date of 1792.

Constanze’s promotion of the Requiem
For Constanze to continue to receive money from the Requiem after its delivery, it was important that the general public continue to believe that it was Mozart and Mozart alone who composed it. In this way it would generate much higher levels of income from the public and publishers, compared to if it was general knowledge that it was completed by several composers.

In order to do this, Constanze made up many stories surrounding the creation of the piece. And due to lack of detailed records, it’s almost impossible to tell fiction from fact. She claimed that during his last days, Mozart was convinced he had been poisoned and was composing the Requiem for himself. He was so determined to complete his work that during his final hours, he was relaying all his plans to his assistant, so he could finish it exactly as Mozart intended.

The man behind the commission
When Mozart’s Requiem in D minor was completed in 1792, it was delivered to Count Franz von Walsegg. He was the man who originally commissioned the piece to form part of a Requiem service in commemoration of the anniversary of his wife’s death. It’s likely that Walsegg fully intended to pass the work off as his own, since he was a mere amateur chamber musician who regularly commissioned work by talented composers and then claimed them to be his own. Constanze struggled with Walsegg for 12 whole months before he finally gave in and acknowledged Mozart as the true composer of Requiem in D minor.

Central Europe in the mid-18th century was going through a period of transition. The remnants of the Holy Roman Empire had divided into small semi-self-governing principalities. The result was competing rivalries between these municipalities for identity and recognition. Political leadership of small city-states like Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague was in the hands of the aristocracy and their wealth would commission artists and musicians to amuse, inspire, and entertain. The music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods was transitioning toward more full-bodied compositions with complex instrumentation. The small city-state of Salzburg would be the birthplace of one of the most talented and prodigious musical composers of all time.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in full, Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, (born January 27, 1756, Salzburg,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.

Early Life And Works
Mozart most commonly called himself Wolfgang Amadé or Wolfgang Gottlieb. His father, Leopold, came from a family of good standing (from which he was estranged), which included architects and bookbinders. Leopold was the author of a famous violin-playing manual, which was published in the very year of Mozart’s birth. His mother, Anna Maria Pertl, was born of a middle-class family active in local administration. Mozart and his sister Maria Anna (“Nannerl”) were the only two of their seven children to survive.

The boy’s early talent for music was remarkable. At three he was picking out chords on the harpsichord, at four playing short pieces, at five composing. There are anecdotes about his precise memory of pitch, about his scribbling a concerto at the age of five, and about his gentleness and sensitivity (he was afraid of the trumpet). Just before he was six, his father took him and Nannerl, also highly talented, to Munich to play at the Bavarian court, and a few months later they went to Vienna and were heard at the imperial court and in noble houses.

“The miracle which God let be born in Salzburg” was Leopold’s description of his son, and he was keenly conscious of his duty to God, as he saw it, to draw the miracle to the notice of the world (and incidentally to profit from doing so). In mid-1763 he obtained a leave of absence from his position as deputy Kapellmeister at the prince-archbishop’s court at Salzburg, and the family set out on a prolonged tour. They went to what were all the main musical centers of western Europe.

In Paris they met several German composers, and Mozart’s first music was published (sonatas for keyboard and violin, dedicated to a royal princess); in London they met, among others, Johann Christian Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach’s youngest son and a leading figure in the city’s musical life, and under his influence Mozart composed his first symphonies—three survive (K 16, K 19, and K 19a—K signifying the work’s place in the catalog of Ludwig von Köchel).

Still only 13, Mozart had by now acquired considerable fluency in the musical language of his time, and he was especially adept at imitating the musical equivalent of local dialects. The early Paris and London sonatas, the autographs of which include Leopold’s helping hand, show a childlike pleasure in patterns of notes and textures. But the London and The Hague symphonies attest to his quick and inventive response to the music he had encountered, as, with their enrichment of texture and fuller development, do those he produced in Vienna (such as K 43 and, especially, K 48). And his first Italian opera shows a ready grasp of the buffo style.

The Italian Tours
Mastery of the Italian operatic style was a prerequisite for a successful international composing career, and the Austrian political dominion over northern Italy ensured that doors would be open there to Mozart. This time Mozart’s mother and sister remained at home, and the family correspondence provides a full account of events.

Early Maturity
More symphonies and divertimentos, as well as a mass, followed during the summer of 1773. Then Leopold, doubtless seeking again a better situation for his son than the Salzburg court (now under a much less sympathetic archbishop) was likely to offer, took him to Vienna.

Mannheim And Paris
It must have been abundantly clear by this time to Mozart as well as his father that a small provincial court like that at Salzburg was no place for a genius of his order. In 1777 he petitioned the archbishop for his release and, with his mother to watch over him, set out to find new opportunities. The correspondence with his father over the 16 months he was away not only gives information as to what he was doing but also casts a sharp light on their changing relationship; Mozart, now 21, increasingly felt the need to free himself from paternal domination, while Leopold’s anxieties about their future assumed almost pathological dimensions.

Vienna: The Early Years
Fresh from his triumphs in Munich, where he had mixed freely with noblemen, Mozart now found himself placed, at table in the lodgings for the archbishop’s entourage, below the valets if above the cooks. Furthermore, the archbishop refused him permission to play at concerts (including one attended by the emperor at which Mozart could have earned half a year’s salary in an evening). He was resentful and insulted. Matters came to a head at an interview with Archbishop Colloredo, who, according to Mozart, used unecclesiastical language; Mozart requested his discharge, which was eventually granted at a stormy meeting with the court steward on June 9, 1781.

Mozart, who now went to live with his old friends the Webers, set about earning a living in Vienna.

The Central Viennese Period
Back in Vienna Mozart entered on what was to be the most fruitful and successful period of his life. He had once written to his father that Vienna was “the land of the piano,” and his greatest triumphs there were as a pianist-composer. During one spell of little more than five weeks he appeared at 22 concerts, mainly at the Esterházy and Galitzin houses but including five concerts of his own.