In 1791, just after he completed The Magic Flute, Mozart received a call from a mysterious man commissioning him to compose a Requiem. The visitor gave Mozart an unsigned letter, which asked if he’d be prepared to undertake the composition, how much he’d charge for doing so and how long he would take to complete the work. The visitor returned a few days later, and paid the money Mozart had asked for, and was told that the work would be ready in four weeks. He who identified neither himself nor the name of his employer, and said that a person close to his master had died, and that his master wished to have a new Requiem performed in their memory.Mozart set about composition immediately, in spite of the fact that he also had to complete La clemenza di Tito for the coronation of Emperor Leopold in Prague.
By this time Mozart’s health was in a steep decline. He suffered frequent blackouts, and took to his bed, still insisting on working on the Requiem. His pupil Süssmayr helped him score the work, but Mozart died on 5th December 1791, leaving it unfinished. Süssmayr (who may have been romantically involved with Constanze at the time) was persuaded to complete the work.
Like the C minor Mass, the Requiem is a work of high drama, and written on a large scale. It set the pattern for the great Requiems of Berlioz and Verdi, especially in the Dies irae, where the writing is truly electrifying and the terror of the Day of Wrath palpable.
- Recorded in 2001.
- Booklet notes and sung texts included.