Mozart Requiem in D minor, K. 226, 1791
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in full Johann Chrysostum Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised Johannes Chrystosomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart; born: 27th Jan 1756, Salzburg, Austria; died: 5th Dec 1791, Vienna, Austria.
Scored for SATB soloists, SATB chorus; 2 basset horns, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, organ and strings.
The Requiem was initially composed in three stints beginning in July or early August of 1791. He took a break to conduct the premiere of La clemenza di Tito in Prague. He continued work at the end of September. He stopped again in mid October at the request of his wife, Constanze, who was worried about his physical and mental health. She associated his failing health with his obsession with the Requiem and so took the score away from him. He resumed work at the end of September and may have been working on it as late as 3rd Dec. He died early in the morning on 5th Dec 1791. It is believed these days that he died of acute rheumatic fever.
The Requiem was commissioned anonymously by Count Franz von Walsegg. He wanted a Requiem to commemorate the anniversary of the death of his wife, Countess Anna von Walsegg, who had died on 14th Feb 1791. He commissioned it anonymously as he intended to pass it off as his own work, something he was known to do on various occasions. Half of the commission fee was paid upfront, the due upon completion of the Requiem. Antonio Salieri had nothing to do with the commission and hence the death of Mozart. The Salieri version of events came about from a play by Alexander Pushkin called Mozart and Salieri written in 1830. The play formed the basis of an opera of the same name written in 1898 by Rimsky-Korsakov. The baton was then taken up by Peter Shaffer with his 1979 play Amadeus, which then formed the basis for the 1984 film of the same name. Do not let the factual inaccuracy put you off, go and see the film.
After Mozart's death Constanze was faced with the problem of what to do about the commission. She believed that the remainder of the fee would only be paid if a complete Requiem were presented, so she undertook to get the piece completed in secret so that she could pass it off as Mozart's work. Somewhat ironic given the Count's intentions. The opening Requiem aeternam was complete and the remaining work on the Kyrie was very clear. Franz Jacob Freystädtler, one of Mozart's students and a friend, completed the Kyrie in time for the memorial service that took place on 10th Dec. Constanze asked him to do the rest of the work to complete the Requiem. He declined. She then turned to Joseph Leopold Eybler, another of Mozart's students. He accepted but soon changed his mind. Then it was the turn of Franz Xaver Süssmayr who had begun studying with Mozart in 1791, not very gifted, but willing. He completed the work in Feb 1792. He made his own copy of the manuscript completed by Mozart so that the complete work had only one set of handwriting. He also forged Mozart's signature on the manuscript and dated it 1792. Count Walsegg made his own copy of the score and entitled it Requiem composto del Conte Walsegg. He led a performance of in on 14th Dec 1793 at the Cistercian monastery in Wiener Neustadt.
Since then there have been various other attempts to complete the Requiem but Süssmayr's is the one most often performed, warts and all. Of course, for many years it was the only version available.
Chillcott Requiem, 2010
Bob Chilcott is one of the busiest and most popular figures in British choral music. His musical experience began as a boy chorister and then as a tenor choral scholar in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and continued as singer, composer and arranger with the celebrated King’s Singers. Since 1997 he has worked as a full-time composer and conductor, spending much of his time promoting choral music in this country and abroad, especially in the USA. At home he is currently Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Singers.
Bob Chilcott’s singing experience has given him an inside knowledge of an exceptionally wide range of music and this is reflected in the eclectic nature of his own compositions which, whilst remaining within the mainstream English choral tradition, are variously inspired by folksongs, Gregorian chant, Anglican hymns and psalms, spirituals, jazz, close-harmony, gospel and African music.
The Requiem was jointly commissioned by Music at Oxford, the Oxford Bach Choir and Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas, and first performed in this country and the USA in 2010. It is scored for soprano and tenor soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra. The text is the Latin Missa pro Defunctis, the Mass for the Dead, with the addition of the prayer, ‘Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts’ from the Book of Common Prayer. The work is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s niece, Samantha Verschueren, who tragically died at the age of only twenty-three whilst the piece was being written.
Chilcott’s principal influences when writing this work were the requiems of Fauré and Duruflé, which he sang regularly whilst at King’s. The most obvious parallel between those two works and this one is the Pie Jesu, which like them features a solo soprano, but the harmonies and melodic lines of Chilcott’s Requiem also suggest that Fauré and Duruflé were never far away from him. He omits the more forbidding parts of the traditional Latin text, notably the Dies Irae, his declared intention being to create a contemplative setting appropriate for either a concert or a liturgical context. The music bears the usual Chilcott hallmarks: strong rhythms, lyrical melodies, and the influence of jazz elements, though in this particular work the jazz influence is for the most part only subtly hinted at.
The Introit and Kyrie opens over a gently pulsing accompaniment, initially in the dark key of F minor, but moving into the major for ‘et lux perpetua’. The pace quickens slightly at the tenor soloist’s entry, ‘Te decet hymnus’, after which the opening material returns, with the addition this time of the soprano soloist. The tenors and basses of the choir introduce the Offertorio, which begins urgently, building to a climax at ‘Libera me’. A gentler tempo ushers in an extended tenor solo at ‘Hostias et preces tibi’. This eventually leads into the Pie Jesu, a simple, lyrical aria for the soprano soloist, supported by a subdued choral accompaniment. Jazz elements now come to the fore in the Sanctus and Benedictus, with its dissonant harmonies, irregular dancing rhythm and driving energy. The choir’s role in theAgnus Dei is again that of accompanist, this time to another expansive tenor solo. Chilcott next inserts a reflective setting for the choir of the prayer, Thou knowest, Lord, from the Book of Common Prayer. The Lux aeterna is a re-working of the music from the first movement, with the soprano soloist’s final phrase ascending heavenward and bringing the Requiem to a serene close.
Duruflé Requiem, op. 9, 1947
Maurice Duruflé; born: 11th Jan 1902, Louviers, France; died: 16th Jun 1986, Louveciennes, France.
Scored for SATB chorus and SB solists, there are orchestrations: full orchestration, 3 flutes (2nd and 3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais), cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, organ and strings; reduced orchestration, 3 trumpets, timpani, harp, organ and strings; organ, organ only.
Duruflé only published 14 works. But he published quality, his organ works are renowned and the Requiem is considered a masterpiece of 20th century choral writing. The Requiem was commissioned in 1941 by the collaborationist Vichy regime, which collapsed in 1944 before the completion of the work; it was completed in 1947 and dedicated to the memory of his father. At the time of the commission Duruflé was working on an organ suite based around Gregorian Chant, the sketches for that work were incorporated in the Requiem. Gregorian chant runs through the whole of the work.According to Duruflé all of its melodies are "based exclusively on themes from the Gregorian chant funeral mass. Sometimes I adopted the music exactly, leaving the orchestra to support or comment, in other passages [the chant] served merely as a stimulus.".
The Requiem aeternam chant from the Mass for the dead features in the introit, vocally initially and then in the orchestration. The Kyrie makes use of the Kyrie chant as a cantus firmus in the orchestra. The Offertory uses the Domine Jesu Christe chant in the orchestral choral and solo baritone parts. Incidentally, Duruflé himself suggested that the baritone solo parts are better sung by the chorus.