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In May of 2016, the Chorale performed Requiem by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Many myths and legends have grown up around the Mozart Requiem, but the true story of its origin is as odd and beguiling as any of the fictions. In the summer of 1791 Count Walsegg, a wealthy and eccentric Viennese nobleman, wanted to present a requiem mass in memory of his deceased, music-loving wife, and to pass it off as his own work. He sent a messenger to Mozart, offering the commission along with a handsome fee. Mozart immediately accepted, although he never learned the identity of his patron. He sketched about half of the projected work before being stricken with what was to be his fatal illness on November 20. The story of the composer dictating sections of the Requiem on his deathbed is well-attested, although it did not involve his rival Salieri, as depicted in the film Amadeus. Most likely the recipients of the dictation were his associates Joseph Eybler and Franz Xaver Süssmayr. After Mozart’s death on December 5, his widow Constanze engaged Süssmayr to complete the score, based on the sketches and possibly on verbal instructions given by the dying composer. Count Walsegg eventually mounted a performance of the Requiem, but was not able to present it as his own, since Constanze, an astute businesswoman, had already given the premiere and used the proceeds to pay off some of her late husband’s debts.

 Mozart completed the opening “Requiem aeternam” movement, and the vocal parts and bass line, along with some suggestions of orchestration, for the next five movements, “Dies Irae” through “Confutatis”. The same is true for the “Domine Jesu Christe” and “Hostias” movements. The sketch of the “Lacrimosa”, however, breaks off after the first eight measures, perhaps marking the very point where Mozart passed away. There are no surviving sketches on Mozart’s hand for the “Sanctus” and “Benedictus”; these are generally believed to be entirely by Süssmayr, although perhaps based on oral instructions from Mozart. The concluding “Lux aeterna” is largely a reprise of Mozart’s opening movement, ending with a stark and powerful fugue.

 If not for his involvement with the Requiem, Süssmayr would no doubt be completely forgotten today. In his own time, however, he was an active and productive composer, with several operas and Mass settings to his credit. We will present a small sample of Süssmayr’s own music, the motet “Ave verum corpus”, as a prelude to the Requiem.