Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem: The Mysterious Creation of the Work

Mozart’s Requiem is perhaps one of the most mysterious and best pieces of work of all time. A Requiem is a musical setting of the Mass for the Dead. At first, Mozart was approached by an anonymous figure who wanted him to commission a requiem for Count Franz Walsegg, whom wanted a requiem written for his young wife that had passed away. Unfortunately, Mozart had passed away before he could finish writing the piece. Here, we’ll explore a little further into Mozart’s background and musical output, details on the Requiem such as composers, written text, reviews, significance and purpose of the piece.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. He is said to be one of the greatest composers in the history of western music. Very early in life, Mozart started performing music. At age 6 he went on an extended tour around the courts of Europe with his sister, Maria. His music was radical and the audience did not understand his complex and extraordinary writing, and was not really appreciated for the most part. Later in life, Mozart often included many different elements and styles from different countries into his pieces. 

Requiem was written in July of 1791, but was never finished due to Mozart’s death in December of 1791. Soon after, it was handed off to two other composers in hopes that it could be finished. Originally according to Mozart, an anonymous “Grey Messenger,” approached him with a commission to write a requiem for the dead.

It seems that it is a mystery on who actually wrote Requiem. Many composers took part in the writing of the piece. It turns out that Mozart was only able to complete two of the movements. Mozart was actually able to finish the vocal parts and bass line for the whole Requiem, except for the “Lachrymose.” It is stated that it was commissioned for an unknown benefactor. Requiem was not finished before Mozart died. His wife, Constanze, was worried she’d have to pay money back, because he had already been paid for an entire funeral mass. Constanze reached out to an Austrian choir master, Joseph Eybler. He actually returned the work to Constanze after working on it, because he was intimidated by the work. Franz Xavuer Suessmayre was an occasional employee and student of Mozart. Constanze reached out to him next. Franz had already assisted Mozart with the Requiem before his death. This gave Franz the advantage, as he already had an understanding of what Mozart had intended for the piece. Franz was able to finish the requiem. In the end, it became an issue because Constanze and Franz could never agree on how much Franz should take for the finished work. In the end, Contanze ultimately gave the majority of the credit to Mozart. She assigned small parts of particular voices and instruments to the other composers.

Requiem is church-related. According to the textbook, in this era, the principles of genres of sacred choral music were the Mass, the Requiem Mass, and the oratorio. Mass is a musical setting of the most solemn service of the Roman Catholic Church and a Requiem is a musical setting of the Mass for the Dead. Mozart was commissioned by count Franz Walsegg to create a requiem for the death of his young wife.

The Requiem was commissioned anonymously at first by Franz Count Walsegg. Franz late wife died young, and he wanted some in remembrance of her. Mozart actually agreed to the commission because he was in some financial trouble. It is assumed that some supernatural being ordered this Requiem, which Mozart only finished a few hours before his death. It is also reported that the first two movements that Mozart finished were very first performed over Mozart’s remains.

Mozart accepted the commission for another reason besides financial trouble. It is stated that once Mozart received the commission from the “Grey Messenger,” to write a requiem for the dead, it also conveyed a warning of the composer’s own impending death.

The two movements that he finished completely was the “Introit,” the first movement, and the Kyrie was included as well. On January 2, 1793, the actual first performance had been given without the count’s knowledge. In Jahn-Saal in Vienna, a concert arranged benefited Constanze and her children with Mozart. On December 14, 1793, the count had the worked performed in honor of his late wife. It was then during this performance that the count introduced himself as the composer of the piece.

Between the years of 1825 and 1839, there seems to have been a “The Requiem Controversy,” which questions the authenticity and mystery of Mozart’s Requiem. Published in 1825 by Gottfried Weber, he began his article as followed: “Of all the works by our glorious Mozart, there is hardly one that enjoys as much general admiration, even veneration, as his Requiem. This is, however, very remarkable-one might almost say amazing-for of all his works this is the one that can be described, bluntly, as the least perfect, the least finished: indeed, it is scarcely worthy to be called a work of Mozart’s at all.” Over the centuries since its composition, the expressive power of the Requiem has been widely recognized by audiences from many cultures. According to the textbook, the moving work was chosen for the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, on the one year anniversary of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, a rolling performance of Mozart’s Requiem was given in all corners of the globe (in Europe, Asia, Central American, and the United States), each beginning at 8:46 a.m., the time of the first attack.

It’s safe to say that Mozart led a very successful and creative life, for the most part. The eerie mystery behind his death and the writing of the Requiem is quite interesting, and also quite sad as well. It seems that during his final days that he was not only preparing a Requiem ultimately for himself, but he died while doing what he loved, writing and creating music.

Works cited

  • Cardona, Nina. “Who Wrote Mozart's Requiem?” Nashville Public Radio, 7 Jan. 2016, www.nashvillepublicradio.org/post/who-wrote-mozart-s-requiem#stream/0.
  • Keefe, Simon P. Mozart's Requiem: Reception, Work, Completion. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
  • Keynes, Milo. “The Personality and Illnesses of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Milo Keynes, 1994.” SAGE Journals, 1 Nov. 1994, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/096777209400200405.
  • Roven, Glen. “What Did He Write and When Did He Write It?: Mozart's ‘Requiem.’” BLARB, 8 May 2017, blog.lareviewofbooks.org/essays/write-write-mozarts-requiem/.
  • Sadie, Stanley. “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 18 July 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Wolfgang-Amadeus-Mozart.
  • Sapsuev, Andrey. “Once Again on Mozart’s Requiem (Issues of Intonation-and-Style Analysis).” Journal of Siberian Federal University. Humanities & Social Sciences 3 (2014 7) 498-509, 11 Jan. 2014, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6af6/33accaf3a001543aa19428dbf45b5a75a07c.pdf.
  • Wolff, Christoph, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart's Requiem: Historical and Analytical Studies, Documents, Score. University of California Press, 1998.
07 July 2022
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