It is one of the most famous choral works in the classical repertoire but Mozart's Requiem has a backstory that reads like a bad film script.
In July 1791, a mysterious stranger arrived on Mozart's Vienna doorstep with a bag of money to commission a Requiem Mass. The proviso: that Mozart did not seek to learn the identity of his patron and that the composer's name not appear on the manuscript.
The stranger was the valet of the eccentric Count Franz von Walsegg, an amateur musician who liked to claim other people’s compositions as his own. He was hoping to pass off Mozart’s requiem as his own musical commemoration of his young wife Anna, who had died earlier that year on Valentine’s Day.
Mozart, whose health was deteriorating and who was experiencing bouts of paranoia, believed he was about to die and had been cursed to write a requiem as a ‘swansong’ for himself.
Five months later, the 35-year-old Mozart was dead without having finished the commission.
However because Mozart had received only half of the commission’s payment in advance, his widow Constanze was keen to have the work completed secretly by someone else to collect the final payment.
The task was eventually handed over to Mozart’s pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr. The completed score, initially by Mozart but largely finished by Süssmayr, was then dispatched to Count Walsegg complete with Mozart’s counterfeited signature and dated 1792.
It is believed that it was Constanze who was responsible for the stories surrounding the composition of the work, including the claims that Mozart received the commission from a mysterious messenger and that Mozart came to believe he was writing the requiem for his own funeral.
Regardless of its history – or perhaps because of it – Mozart’s extraordinary final work is uplifting, passionate and deeply moving.
On Thursday 12 April, Mozart’s hauntingly beautiful Requiem in D minor (K.626) will be performed in the magnificent St Mary’s Cathedral by WAAPA’s Classical Vocal students and the Faith Court Orchestra with the Chapel Choir of John Septimus Roe Anglican Community School, conducted by Kristin Bowtell.
They will be joined by organist Stewart Smith, WAAPA’s Associate Dean of Music, violinist Paul Wright, Acting Head of Strings, and the WAAPA Trombone Quartet.
With a program that also includes Renaissance works for choir and brass by Giovanni Gabrieli, Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in D minor and the astounding choral music of the UK’s most successful composer, James MacMillan, this is guaranteed to be one of the choral events of the year.
PERFORMANCE INFORMATION: MOZART’S REQUIEM
ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL, Victoria Square, Perth
Tickets $32 / $27 Concession and Friends
Thursday 12 April, 7.30pm
Music Director: Kristin Bowtell
Performed by: Classical Vocal students and the Faith Court Orchestra, with Paul Wright (violin), Stewart Smith (organ) and the Chapel Choir of John Septimus Roe Anglican Community School
BOOK NOW: Tel: (08) 9370 6895 or online at: waapa.ecu.edu.au/boxoffice