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The Mozart Requiem: Authorship and Aesthetics

The Mozart Requiem: Authorship and Aesthetics

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Published by Kyle Vanderburg

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Published by: Kyle Vanderburg on May 21, 2011
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  THE MOZART REQUIEM: AUTHORSHIP AND AESTHETICSKyle Vanderburg Music of the Classical Period- MUSC 5563November 6, 2010
 
2
 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart·s Requiem is one of the composer·s most loved works, due bothto its musical content and the controversy and legend surrounding it. The composer·s death at ayoung age, the possible conspiracy that may have caused that death, the state of the Requiem³ finished or not³at Mozart·s death, and just how and when the work was completed (and by whom)are all topics that are still open for debate over two hundred years later. Only the most basic factsare unquestionably clear: Mozart was commissioned to write a requiem in mid-1791 and thecomposer died in early December of that year, likely leaving the Requiem unfinished. The majority of the circumstances beyond these facts are open to speculation. The Requiem was commissioned anonymously by Count Franz von Walsegg, who hadplanned to pass the work off as his own. The story of the Requiem·s mysterious commissioning andgenesis is described in the January 7
th
, 1792 edition of the
SalzburgerIntelligenzblatt 
:1. Concerning Mozart. ² Some months before his death, he received an unsigned letter withthe request that he compose a requiem and set whatever fee he wished. Because the projectdid not appeal to him at all, he said to himself, I will demand so much the music-lover willsurely turn me down. The next day, a servant came to get the reply ² Mozart wrote to theunknown person that he could not compose it for less than 60 ducats, and certainly not foranother 2 or 3 months. The servant returned, bringing 30 ducats with him, and said he would inquire again in 3 months and if the mass was finished, he would immediately pay off the other half. Now Mozart had no choice but to compose it, something he often did withtears in his eyes, saying: I fear I am writing a requiem for myself; he completed it a few daysbefore his death. When news of his death was announced, the servant came again, bringing the remaining 30 ducats; he did not ask for the requiem and since then there has been nofurther request. When it has been copied, it is going to be performed at a memorial servicefor him in St. Michael·s church.
1
  Already, a month after the composer·s death, it is stated that the Requiem was finished by Mozart, which is unlikely, and probably a result of Constanze Mozart·s work in attempting to market her latehusband·s work. Constanze·s management of the work and its completion certainly obscure the factsof the work, but the first issue when speaking of the Mozart Requiem is the composer·s early demise.
1
Bruce Cooper Clarke, ´From Little Seeds,µ
The Musical Times 
137, no. 1846 (Dec., 1996): 13.
 
3
Mozart·s Death
 The exact details surrounding Mozart·s death are unknown, and what is known is obfuscatedby several factors. Masonic conspiracy and murder by Salieri are two popular ideas, but these areoften dismissed as pure fiction. What can be definitely stated are a handful of facts. Wolfgang  Amadeus Mozart died on December 5, 1791, at the age of thirty-five years. He had been in poorhealth throughout the last third of 1791, through the composing of 
a clemenza di Tito
and
Die Zauberflöte 
and the Clarinet Concerto in A. He was buried on December 6, 1791, sent off with asimple funeral and buried in a common grave, to save the family as much money as possible.
2
 Therest of the details are not clear, in part to history, and in part to Constanze·s management of herhusband·s estate. Even small details about the composer·s death and burial are debatable, such as the weather on the day of his funeral, which is now believed to have been fair.
3
  While it is clear that Mozart was working on the Requiem at the time of his death, it is notcompletely clear as to the work·s completion at that time. While a few accounts, such as the onestated in the introduction, indicate Mozart·s completion of the work, the majority of accountsconcur that a decent amount of the Requiem was left unfinished. Because Mozart·s death and thecompletion of the Requiem are such intertwined topics, several prevalent theories about Mozart·sdeath would have significant impact on how the Requiem was finished in 1791 and is understoodtoday.One of the most famous stories regarding Mozart·s death regards fellow composer AntonioSalieri. Much of the present-day thought regarding Salieri as Mozart·s rival can be traced to PeterShaffer·s 1979 stage play 
 Amadeus,
 which later prompted the making of a film of the same name in
2
Nicolas Slonimsky, ´The Weather at Mozart·s Funeral,µ
The Musical Quarterly 
46, no. 1 (Jan., 1960): 12.
3
Ibid., 16.

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