Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Classical Era > The Requiem (K 626) - Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart's "Requiem" was written in Vienna in 1791, and was left in an unfinished state by the composer, who made suggestions and gave instructions as to its completion even upon his death-bed. It was long the popular belief that the "Requiem" was commisioned by a dark, mysterious stranger, whose appearance impressed Mozart with the conviction that he was a messenger of death; more than this, that he himself had been poisoned, and that he was writing his own death song, upon the order of some supernatural power. It is now known that his supicions were only the outcome of his morbid condition. After an introduction, which gives out the subject of the opening movement -- a slow, mournful, solemn theme -- the first number begins with the impressive strain ("Requiem aeternam dona eis"), which gradually brightens in the phrase ("Et Lux perpetua"), and reaches a splendid burst of exultation in the ("Te decet Hymnus"). After a repetition of the ("Requiem aeternam"), the number closes with the ("Kyrie eleison"), a slow and complicated fugue, which is sublime in its effect, though very sombre in color, as befits its subject.
The next number is the "Dies irae," written for chorus in simple counterpoint, and very dramatic in its character, the orchestral part being constantly vigorous, impetious, and agitated, and reaching intense energy on the verse ("Quantus Tremor est futurus"), the whole presenting a vivid picture in tones of the terrors of the last judgement. In the ("Tuba mirum") the spirit of the music changes from the church form to the secular. It is written for solo voices, ending in a quartet. The bass begins with the ("Tuba mirum"), set to a portentous trombone acompaniment; then follow the tenor ("Mors stupebit",) the alto ("Judex ergo"), and the soprano ("Quid sum miser"). From this extraordinary group we pass to the sublime chorus ("Rex tremendae Majestatis"), once more in the church style, which closes with the prayer ("Salva me"), in canonical form.
The ("Dies Irae") is followed by the ("Recordare"), written, like the ("Tuba mirum"), as a quartet for solo voices. The vocal parts are in canon form and are combined with marvelous skill, relieved here and there with solos in purely melodic style, as in the ("Quaerens me"), while the orchestral part is an independent fugue, with several subjects worked up with every form of instrumental embellishment, the fugue itself sometimes relieved by plain accompaniment. Once more the orchestral part is full of agitation and even savage energy in the ("Confutatis Maledictis"), as it accompanies a powerful double chorus, closing at last in a majestic prayer ("Oro supplex et acclinis"), in which all the voices join in magnificent harmony.
The ("Lacrymosa") is the most elegant and poetically concieved movement in the "Requiem." It begins in a delicate, graceful, and even sensuous manner, which gradually broadens and strengthens, and at last develops into a crescendo of immense power, reaching its climax on the words ("Judicantus Homo reus"). Then it changes to a plaintive prayer ("Huic ergo parce Deus"), and closes in a cloud of gloom in the ("Dona eis Requiem"). The next number ("Dominae Jesu Christe") is in pure church from, beginning with a motet by chorus in solid harmony, which runs into a fugue on the words ("Ne absorbent eas Tartarus"), followed by a quartet of voices regularly fugued, leading to another great fugue on the passage ("Quam olim Abrahae"), which closes the number in a burst of sacred inspiration. The "(Domine") is followed by the ("Hostias"), a lovely choral melody which leads to the ("Sanctus"), a sublime piece of harmony closing with a fugued ("Hosanna"). The ("Benedictus"), which follows it, is a solo quartet, plaintive and solemn in character, but full of sweet and rich melodies magnificently acompanied. The ("Agnus Dei") closes the work, a composiition of profound beauty, with an accompaniment of mournful majesty, developing into a solemn, almost funereal strain on the words ("Dona eis Requiem"), and closing with the fugue of the opening ("Kyrie") on the words ("Lux aeterna").