The Requiem Revealed

In the evening of 10 December 1791 the Requiem was most likely played for the first time! Gathered in St Michael’s Church in Vienna to attend the memorial for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the audience listened to the heavenly music that Mozart only ever heard within himself. As the Requiem unfolded to the world, Mozart was offering humanity his last, most precious gift, and the proof that he will go on living forever, through his divine Music. 

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Four days after the burial, so the Auszug aller europäischen Zeitungen (European Press Digest) of 13 December reported, the Viennese “celebrated solemn obsequies for the great composer Mozart” in St. Michael’s Church. On the sixteenth, the Viennese journal Der heimliche Botschafter (The Secret Messenger), which circulated in scribes’ copies, identified the music at this service as “the requiem he composed during his final illness…” “In view of the manuscript’s unfinished condition, only the first movement, and perhaps the second with some instrumental touches added, could have been performed with orchestra; the other sections very likely took the form of Mozart’s choruses sung by a quartet and supported by organ continuo; plainchant might have filled the missing sections.” 

Maybe this is how Mozart’s Requiem sounded on that day of 10 December 1791… 

Prague marked Mozart’s death four days later with a requiem (a setting by Franz Anton Rossler, also known as Antonio Rosetti) in St. Nicholas’s, packed by a throng of more than four thousand overflowing into the surrounding streets.  

It has taken perhaps two hundred years for the world to realize fully and in all its aspects what this loss has meant to music – and to humanity. Haydn said: “Posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years!” Posterity has not seen it in two hundred.

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Dr Michael Lorenz: “This is the standard work about the Requiem at St. Michael’s: ‘Mozart and the Practice of Sacred Music, 1781-1791‘ by David Ian Black”  

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