Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Mozart!

Happy Birthday Mozart!

Last time we began the story of Mozart’s Requiem, the piece he left unfinished at his untimely death. Today, let’s continue the tale, finding out what happened to the unfinished work following the composer’s passing.

After her husband died, Constanze still needed the money from the Requiem commission and thus, after asking several composer friends, found Franz Xaver Sussmayer to be willing to complete the work. Sussmayer studied with Mozart, who had given his pupil instructions on how he intended the work to be completed prior to his death. Sussmayer likely agreed to this daunting task because he was a newer student who longed for any experience he could obtain.

After Mozart died, a Requeim Mass was held in December of 1791 in honor of the composer. The completed “Requiem” and “Kyrie” movements were performed during the mass. Several years later, in 1793, a benefit concert was held for Mozart’s widow and sons. The version heard here was most likely the completed Requiem by Sussmayer. While other composers have attempted to complete this Mozart masterpiece, Sussmayer’s version has remained the most popular.

What happened to the mysterious stranger who commissioned the work after Mozart passed? Scholars believe the stranger to be Anton Leitgeb, valet of Count Franz von Walsegg who commissioned the work. Walsegg was known to commission music and then claim them as his own compositions. This was his plan with the Requiem, which he intended to use to commemorate his late wife. Ten years following Mozart’s death, Constanze actually had to pay him for the rights to publish the work under her husband’s name!

Below you can hear a performance of Mozart’s Requiem:



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Writing His Own Requiem?

In July of 1791, Mozart received a letter informing him that he would have a visitor the following day. Upon arrival, the visitor explained that he represented the man who wrote the letter and wished to commission Mozart to write a requiem. The visitor then gave Mozart two rules if he chose to accept the commission: to refrain from questioning who sent the letter and to never seek out where the requiem was to be performed following its completion.

Needing the money, Mozart accepted the offer and began work alongside his operas The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito. While he completed the operas that were both premiered during the fall of that year, the Requiem lay unfinished at the point of the composer’s premature death.

This month on Clef Notes we are looking at several famous works that were left unfinished by their composer. Over the next few days, let’s explore Mozart’s Requiem and the story surrounding its mysterious commission and the composer’s death.

Following his acceptance of the Requiem commission in July, Mozart fell ill in October with what would soon kill him. As he grew weaker physically, Mozart became more obsessed with his work on the Requiem. His wife, Constanze, eventually had to take the score away in fear that this obsession was only making matters worse. Mozart apparently even admitted to her that he believed he was writing the Requiem for his own death!

Prior to his passing, Mozart was able to complete the “Requiem” and “Kyrie” sections of his work, leaving the rest in the hands of his wife to decide who would complete the masterpiece.


Who did Constanze choose to complete her husband’s Requiem? And did they ever find out the identity of the mysterious man who commissioned the work? Join me next time for the rest of the story!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tchaikovsky's Third Piano Concerto

The next piece of unfinished music we are going to look at this month is a relatively obscure work, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Tchaikovsky began working on this piece in May of 1893, leaving it incomplete at his death later that year. He had planned the work to contain three movements, adapting it from a prior Symphony in E-flat major that he began and then discarded.

Following Tchaikovsky’s death, only the first movement and sketches of the second and third were found. Tchaikovsky’s student, Sergey Taneyev, completed the last two movements and published them as a separate work titled Andante and Finale, Op. 79. Taneyev gave the first performance of the completed concerto in 1895 in St. Petersburg. While many people aren’t very familiar with this work in comparison with many of Tchaikovsky’s other hits, some may find it familiar because it was used as the score to George Balanchine’s ballet Allegro brillante in 1956.

You can listen to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3 below. Are you familiar with this piece?