Mackerras, Charles

Performance DetailsRelease DetailsRelease Notes
Soprano: Susan Gritton
Alto: Catherine Wyn-Rogers
Tenor: Timothy Robinson
Bass: Peter Rose

Choir: Scottish Chamber Chorus
Orchestra: Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Conductor: Sir Charles Mackerras

Date: December 14-16, 2002
Venue: Caird Hall, Dundee, UK

Label: Linn Records
Cat No.: CKD 211
Released: 2003
Mozart’s Requiem – the composer’s last and unfinished work – was commissioned by Count Franz von Wallsegg, who wished to have it performed in memory of his departed wife as his own composition. In order not to forfeit the handsome commission fee, Mozart’s widow Constanze decided to have the work completed in secrecy, so that the finished version could be presented as her husband’s final effort. The Requiem is known to the general public in the version undertaken by Mozart’s pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Süssmayr based his completion on Mozart’s virtually complete score of the ‘Introitus’ and drafts of all sections from the ‘Kyrie’ fugue to the ‘Hostias’. These contain the completed vocal parts (solo and chorus) and the orchestral bass line, with occasional motives for the orchestral accompaniment. However, the ‘Lacrimosa’ breaks off after the eighth bar. To these Mozartean materials Süssmayr added settings of the ‘Sanctus’ (Hosanna), ‘Benedictus’, ‘Agnus Dei’ and the ‘Lux aeterna’ and ‘Cum sanctis tuis’ (Communion). The Communion is merely a newly texted version of part of the ‘Introitus’ and of the ‘Kyrie’ fugue.

In making his completion, Süssmayr could draw on the partial completion of the sequence done by Joseph Eybler soon after Mozart’s death. He may have had access to a further important source – a sketch leaf which includes contrapuntal studies for the ‘Rex tremendae’ as well as the beginning of an ‘Amen’ fugue to close the ‘Lacrimosa’. However, Süssmayr did not include a realisation of this fugue in his version; he set the ‘Amen’ with two chords at the end of the ‘Lacrimosa’.

The key question about Süssmayr’s version is whether any of the portions of the Requiem that are not in Mozart’s hand were based on his ideas. Although Süssmayr claimed to have composed these alone, they display the tight motivic construction of Mozart’s fragment, in which a small number of themes recur from movement to movement; Süssmayr’s own music lacks such motivic interrelationships. Perhaps, then, the ‘few scraps of music’ Constanze remembers giving to Süssmayr together with Mozart’s manuscript contained material not found in Mozart’s draft. Mozart may also have suggested certain ideas to Süssmayr on the piano.

A clear evaluation of the movements Süssmayr claimed to have composed is clouded by unmistakable discrepancies within them between idiomatically Mozartean lines and grammatical and structural flaws that are utterly foreign to Mozart’s idiom. First attacked in 1825, these include glaring errors of voice leading in the orchestral accompaniment of the ‘Sanctus’ and the awkward, truncated Hosanna fugue. Furthermore, Süssmayr brings back this fugue after the ‘Benedictus’ in B-flat major rather than the original D major, in conflict with all church music of the time.

The version heard in this performance seeks to address the problems of instrumentation, grammar and structure within Süssmayr’s version while respecting the 200-year-old history of the Requiem. A clearly drawn line of separation, in which everything except the contents of Mozart’s autograph was to be considered spurious per se, was explicitly rejected. Rather, the goal was to revise not as much, but as little as possible, attempting in the revisions to observe the character, texture, voice leading, continuity and structure of Mozart’s music. The traditional version has been retained insofar as it agrees with idiomatic Mozartean practice. The more transparent instrumentation of the new completion was inspired by Mozart’s other church music. The ‘Lacrimosa’ has been slightly altered and now leads into a non-modulating ‘Amen’ fugue. Other completions of the fugue modulate extensively. The second half of the ‘Sanctus’ resolves the curious tonal discrepancies of Süssmayr’s version, and the revised Hosanna fugue, modelled after that of Mozart’s Mass in C minor, K. 427/417a, displays the proportions of a Mozartean church fugue. The second half of the ‘Benedictus’ has been slightly revised and is connected by a new transition to a shortened reprise of the Hosanna fugue in the original key of D major. The structure of the ‘Agnus Dei’ has been retained, but the infelicities of Süssmayr’s version have been averted in the second and third strophes. In the final ‘Cum sanctis tuis’ fugue, the text setting has been altered to correspond to the norms of the era.

It is hoped that the new version honours Mozart’s spirit while allowing the listener to experience Mozart’s magnificent Requiem torso within the sonic framework of its historical tradition.

© Robert D. Levin, 2003