"Our riches, being in our brains, die with us...unless of course someone chops off our head, in which case, we won't need them anyway."-W. A. Mozart
Mozart as Goth music. Check this one out.
Lacrymosa, performed by Evanescence
The title is Lacrymosa, which is the same title as Mozart's movement from his Requiem. In fact, the Lacrimosa is the most unfinished movement of Mozart's Requiem. SO unfinished -- just eight bars -- that the issue of how to complete it is still open. And so, you might argue, although it's a bit of a stretch, that Evanescence may have just as much right to make their version and call it Mozart as anybody else!
More, below the fold, on Mozart and the Lacrimosa and the Requiem and the uses and abuses it has been subjected to, as well as the film Amadeus, the mythology surrounding Mozart's death and the Requiem's composition. This should be a fun diary.
The Evanescence clip above is just the tip of a Mozarty iceberg. I'm starting to regret filling up my bookmarks with so many Youtube clips of amateur performances of Mozart's Requiem, often on the electric guitar. Most often, it's the Lacrimosa.
... AND another. This poor guy couldn't spell MORZART right.
Believe me... there are a lot more. More ambitious are the ones that try to do the Dies Irae, which is far more suitable for shredding on the guitar. For instance:
You have to give these guys some credit. It's not like the sheet music is written out for electric guitar. It takes some work to rearrange it that way. Here's another Dies Irae.
Google's autocomplete feature is rather enlightning at times. For instance, when I type in the word Mozart -- just Mozart -- the first completion it wants to suggest is Mozart's Requiem. So what's that about? Why not some more popular work or aspect of Mozart's work? The Requiem?
The answer has to be the Oscar-winning film (and play) Amadeus. Amadeus was based on the mixture of myths surrounding the death of Mozart and the composition of the Requiem, his last work, parts of it allegedly dictated while he lay dying, at the ripe old age of 35, from what probably started as a trivial bacterial infection.
Here's how Amadeus portrayed Mozart dictating his music, from his bed, to Salieri. Just think how remarkable it is that they got away with this, analyzing a movement from the Mozart requiem, breaking down its themes, even talking about the chord changes, and making it exciting and interesting. And doing it for seven whole minutes.
Mozart dictates the Confutatis movement to Salieri
Here's is the complete Confutatis, the Sussmayer version.
Notice how it has three distinct parts. It's very different. It begins with the angry frustrated section. I usually ignore the words to these things, but they suit the music well. "When the accused are confounded and doomed to the flames of woe..." And the music is suitably harsh and accusing. And then... The voices of angels -- sopranos alone, to be more precise, entering on the words, "Voca me," "Come to me," the music filled with compassion after the hammering turmoil of previous part. After a repetition of these two sections, the first and second, a totally new section of material begins, at 1:39, possibly the eeriest music Mozart ever composed, on the words "Bowed down in supplication, I beg you."
The mythology that evolved around Mozart's death became huge, in part because so many members of the Mozart family embellished it with romantic details. Telling truth from fiction is impossible, and I'm not the kind of person to belabor it to find THE truth, because I think, sometimes, myths are just more relevant, and THE truth, in this case, is unavailable to us, anyway. Nobody knows where his body is. He died a pauper, and got a pauper's funeral, which means, in the manner of the times, his body was dumped unceremoniously into a pit with a bunch of other poor wretches, no coffin, as shown at the end of Amadeus. Stories that I can recall, off the top of my head, have it that he died from:
1. Strep Throat
2. Rheumatic Fever
3. Kidney Failure
4. Vitamin D deficiency
5. Antimony (home remedy) poisoning
6. Repeated bloodletting.
7. Killed by a the husband of a woman he was cheating with.
8. Poisoned by enemies (Mozart' alleged this, according to family members.)
That's just for starters. According to a recent NY Times article, there are 118 known medical theories as to what caused his death.
"On the very eve of his death, [Mozart] had the score of the Requiem brought to his bed, and himself (it was two o'clock in the afternoon) sang the alto part; Schack, the family friend, sang the soprano line, as he had always previously done, Hofer, Mozart's brother-in-law, took the tenor, Gerle, later a bass singer at the Mannheim Theater, the bass. They were at the first bars of the Lacrimosa when Mozart began to weep bitterly, laid the score on one side, and eleven hours later, at one o'clock in the morning (of 5 December 1791, as is well known), departed this life."
Is this bullshit? Consider that Mozart never finished the Lacrimosa. In fact, he left it hanging in midair on the 8th bar! Either the story is bullshit... or Mozart had more music that never made it to paper.
Here's the Lacrimosa as Mozart wrote it down, all eight bars, with no meddling by later composers to complete it. If it sounds like the tape cuts off, well, that's the end of Mozart's music. Also, notice the lack of orchestration.
Not complete. Not even close. Just eight bars. (And all eight of them included in Evanescence's clip by the way.)
But -- and here I go with my puppydog enthusiasm -- what eight bars! Listen to the first two bars, the first sixteen notes. Despondent. It's like a dog whimpering. Down-up. Up-down. Down-up. Up-down. So minimal. Later completions didn't add to that at all.
The full written score of the unfinished Lacrimosa in Mozart's hand.
A few days after Mozart's death, there was a small benefit concert of the parts of the Requiem that were complete to raise money for Constanze. It took another four months, though, before the first completed version was ready, the one that was turned over to the mysterious, anonymous patron that had requested it in the first place, the source of the myth used in Amadeus of the masked patron (the jealous Salieri) spooking the bejeezus out of Mozart.
About that patron, from Niemetschek's biography of 1808:
Shortly before the Coronation of the Emperor Leopold, and before Mozart received the commission to go to Prague, an unsigned letter was handed to him by an unknown messenger which, with many flattering remarks, contained the question whether Mozart would like to undertake the composition of a Requiem, for what price, and how soon he would be able to deliver it. [....]
He therefore wrote to the unknown gentleman to say that he would write the Requiem for a certain sum; he could not exactly state the time he would require to complete it; but he would like to know the destination to which he was to deliver the work when it was finished. The same messenger shortly reappeared, bringing not only the agreed honorarium with him, but also the promise that, as he had been so reasonable in his price, he would receive a generous additional payment on handing over the work. He was moreover to write according to the mood and frame of his mind, but he was not to trouble to try and find out the name of his patron, for this search would certainly be in vain....
It wasn't Salieri. It was Count Walsegg. And what Walsegg really wanted it for is a whole other area of speculation. One theory is that he wanted to claim it as his own. Whatever the reason, to be paid, Constanze Mozart had to hustle to complete the Requiem. She turned the job of completing it over to a fellow composer and family friend, Franz Xavier Sussmayer, who had tried to assist Mozart in his final days.
Sussmayer turns out to be an important name in this tale, because the version of the Requiem that people are most familiar with is the Sussmayer Completion, the same one that was turned over to Count Walsegg to receive the commission. Later, when Constanze tried to get the Requiem published, the Count threatened to sue her, claiming that it was his property, she had to make a settlement with him. Otherwise, we might today not have any version of the Requiem!
But was Sussmayer qualified to do an adequate job? Mozart apparently didn't esteem Sussmayer very highly as a musician. "He's like a duck in a thunderstorm." From a letter written by Constanze:
. . . Mozart never thought of beginning a Requiem, and often said to me that he undertook this work with the greatest pleasure, since that [i.e., church music] was his favorite genre, and he was going to do it and compose it with such fervor that his friends and enemies would study it after his death; “if I can only stay alive that long; for this must be my masterpiece and my swan-song.” And he did compose it with great fervor; when he felt weak, however, Süssmayr often had to sing . . . and thus Süssmayr received a real lesson from Mozart. And I can hear Mozart, when he often said to Süssmayr: “Ey — there you stand like a duck in a thunderstorm; you won’t understand that for a long time,” took the quill and wrote down the principal parts which, I suppose, were too much for Süssmayr (Quoted in Robbins Landon, 1791: Mozart’s Last Year, pgs.161-62).
So, to poor Sussmayer fell the burden of completing one of the great musical masterpieces.
Here is the Sussmayer version of the Lacrimosa, the same music used at the very end of Amadeus as they dump Mozart's body. It's an interesting clip, because they use illustrations to trace out the chords.
Sussmayer's own completion material begins at 0:49. Before that, it's pretty much faithful to Mozart's eight bar score, but with more orchestration. At 0:59, he throws in a bII chord (flat second) which really brings the music to life. How much of this is Sussmayer, and how much of this is Sussmayer channeling Mozart through unwritten instructions? Whatever the case, it's still very damn good and it sounds very Mozarty.
Even though it may be the most well known, still, it was never the final word. Other completions of the Requiem began soon after. Within ten years, other completions began to come out. Over the past two hundred years, there have been many, some more heavy-handed, some more conservative. Why? Well, as good as the Sussmayer completed Lacrimosa is, scholars think a lot of the work in the Requiem, as a whole, is barely adequate work by a man who was struggling to do the the best he could with genius material.
Those versed in the Mozart style generally agree that Süssmayr's work is deeply flawed with technical errors, needless instrumental doubling of voices and a general lack of inspiration (although few non-scholarly ears notice the faults and, as many concede, what contemporary wouldn't be found lacking when compared to the genius of Mozart?). Yet, the question remains of what, if anything, to do about it. There's little consensus among editors of modern editions and recordings.
As noted in more detail below, the most radical eliminate the Süssmayr material altogether, either leaving a torso with new orchestrations of Mozart's vocals and bass, or substituting realizations of their own. More moderate editors adhere to Süssmayr's basic plan but attempt to correct his "grammatical" mistakes and lighten the instrumentation...
Other parts, like the Sanctus movement, are suspected to be almost completely Sussmayer because of the un-Mozartiness. It's hard to tell, at times, because Constanze tried to downplay Sussmayer's musical influence on the completed work in order to promote the published Requiem.
But... back to the Lacrimosa. Sussmayer did the best he could to complete it and did a great job, however he did it, considering Mozart only wrote eight bars of it.
Except... they found more Mozart Requiem.
In 1960, another fragment of sixteen bars in Mozart's hand, a choral fugue, was discovered which was believed to be part of a mass. There was scholarly dispute over it for years. But the weight seems to have come down on the side of it being part of the Requiem, and probably destined to come at the end of the Lacrimosa. In Sussmayer's version, the Lacrimosa ends with a nice, round "Amen" cadence, made of two simple chords. (2:46 in the above music clip of the Lacrimosa.) Thus, this musical fragment became the "Amen Fugue." The first modern completion using the Amen Fugue was by Robert Levin. (I'm not sure about the year, but I think this was from around 1973).
Thematic Linkage in the Requiem.
Before we get to the Levin completion, let me point out some very cool and very technical things about the Requiem as a whole. It's going to be important to understanding why the Amen Fugue belongs in the Requiem.
The Mozart Requiem is a thematic head trip. "Thematic linkage" is something we are more familiar with from Beethoven, who came later -- the idea being that the same themes from one movement show up again in another, later movement. Like, Da-da-da-DAH showing up in all four movements of Beethoven's Fifth. Mozart has thematic linkage throughout the Requiem, but it's not obvious, not meant to make a statement, the way Beethoven used it. Rather, the same themes are recycled, often altered in ways that are difficult to recognize at first. And you can imagine that a first time listener would never notice these things. But Mozart was a man who often composed at two levels: to entertain his audience, and to impress other musicians, so the beauty in the details. I'll give you two examples.
The most obvious one is the beginning of the Dies Irae, and the beginning of the very next movement, the Tuba Mirum. Just listen to the first fifteen seconds of each one, (we've got a lot of ground to cover, still), and you'll realize that the Tuba Mirum theme starts out the same as the Dies Irae theme, but it is in a major key, rather than minor.
The most requoted themes are from the Introitus (Introduction), the first movement of the Requiem. Let's compare that to the Recordare movement. Listen to the theme in the woodwinds at the beginning of the Introitus (they are woven together very tightly, yes), and then the main theme at the beginning of the Recordare. It's much more subtle than the simple four-note theme sharing of the Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum.
The Introitus themes are used again, elsewhere, such as in the Agnus Dei, speeded up, in the bass.
All very esoteric and geeky, you might say. But this is important in establishing the credentials of the Amen Fugue. Why? Because the Amen Fugue main theme is the Introitus woodwind theme turned upside down, what's called a "strict inversion," where high notes are made low, and low notes are made high, as if you cut them out and flipped it over. That's VERY subtle. BUT... it provides very hard evidence that we are dealing with part of the Requiem. Add to that that it was written down in Mozart's hand on a manuscript sheet that also included other known parts of the Requiem, and that the manuscript can be dated (somehow) to the time period of the Requiem, and you have a more solid case.
Now, on to the more modern completions!
Mozart's Requiem, Lacrimosa with Amen Fugue, completion by Robert Levin. (Warning: volume levels are set too low.)
It sounds very similar to the Sussmayer version up until about 3:00. It even has that beautiful bII chord that Sussmayer added. Perhaps Levin thought Sussmayer probably was channeling Mozart and decided to be conservative with respect to that. But you can still hear some striking differences in the orchestration, all the more jarring if you've heard the Sussmayer Requiem a million times over the years and have just that one version stuck in your head. And then... the fugue begins, and that's all terra incognito for me.
But wait! There's more! Levin was just the first to insert the new fugue at the end of the Lacrimosa. Next came Maunder.
Mozart's Requiem, Lacrimosa with Amen Fugue, completion by Richard Maunder.
Now this is DRASTICALLY different from the Sussmayer version. That beautiful bII chord, for instance, is gone. And after the first eight Mozart bars, (about 0:52) the music sounds like it's quoting the Introitus main theme (in the woodwinds). And again, another quote from the Introitus about 1:55. At 2:20, the Amen Fugue begins. This, too, is drastically different from Levin's completion of the fugue. I think I like Maunder's version more than Levin's. Overall, comparing these two completions.
Mozart's Requiem, Lacrimosa, completion by Duncan Druce.
Druce's version is more radical still than Maunder's version.
Motivating this, the most radical of all revisions, is Druce's conviction that Süssmayr's work ranges from competent to gauche, "but never with the appositeness, grace and imagination we expect throughout Mozart's compositions." But rather than reject it outright, Druce takes Süssmayr's starting material and reconceives it, as he feels "a competent eighteenth-century composer sympathetic to [Mozart's] style and reasonably knowledgeable as to his methods" might have done.
To me, this is very beautiful, but I have questions in my own mind, listening to it, if this is really Mozarty. I believe this ends with the Amen Fugue, as well, but the clip cuts off before that.
And, finally... Here's a totally different Requiem. The Requiem in C minor by Antonio Salieri. Yes! Salieri composed a pretty good requiem, too. He wasn't Mozart, but he's taken quite a bit of abuse from the film industry, more than he deserved. So if you're sick now of listening to Mozart, give Salieri a break. This is good stuff.
Requiem in C Minor by Antonio Salieri
FINALLY... That's the end of my '"Survey of Mozart" for the year. No matter what you tell me, I don't really know if I've opened up anything new to anybody. And even if it has not, it has been good for me to do this for me. Next week we will probably do something non-classical-period, and then I'm going to reboot the series with a diary on Sonata-allegro form (I'm leaning towards Mendelssohn for that -- tell me your preferences), and then it will be wall to wall Beethoven for the rest of the year as we try to cover as much of the Beethoven symphonies as we can.
And it would please me very much if some of you could keep your eye out for ProudtobeLiberal's Monday companion series, Monday Musical Meditations. This last Monday was a fantastic diary on Prokofiev's Cantata. And I was very disappointed to see that when I finally checked in to it, late at 6am the next morning, it only had a tip jar comment. If you want people to slave like this for you, you should reward them with some kind of comment, even if it's just a "You suck." (And you do suck, PTL, just sayin'.) I would like the same thing for my diaries as well, but I've been fortunate enough to get more promotion than he has. So, as a favor to me, if you like this series, check out PTL's series and leave him a comment. Even if it's a nasty insult.