Unlike most composers of the time, Mozart was far from devout, and had completed little church music. Among many aborted attempts, his only major religious work had been a magnificent 1782 Mass in c minor, brimming with his recent discovery of Bach and Handel, and which he had intended to impress his bride’s home town of Salzburg but never finished once the initial ardor cooled, substituting movements from earlier works for a first and only performance. The mysterious commission apparently stimulated his lapsed interest. It’s unclear just when Mozart began work on the Requiem, but he soon turned to other commitments, including writing his opera La clemenza di Tito and presenting it in Prague to celebrate the coronation of Leopold II. Upon his return to Vienna in mid-September, he was consumed with completing and staging another opera, Die Zauberflöte (“The Magic Flute”), a clarinet concerto for his friend Anton Stadler and a cantata for his Masonic lodge.
Cold Genius What power art thou, who from below Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow From beds of everlasting snow? See'st thou not how stiff and wondrous old Far unfit to bear the bitter cold, I can scarcely move or draw my breath? Let me, let me freeze again to death
“…In a rare visit to Los Angeles on Tuesday night, Christie brought a small contingent of his ensemble — five singers and five instrumentalists (including Christie) — to Walt Disney Concert Hall in what might have seemed an arcane and minor program based on the 16th century air de cour. But once more through exquisite and, above all, illuminating performances, Christie worked considerable magic…
The dusky mezzo-soprano Anna Reinhold and the breathy but brilliantly flexible baritone Marc Mauillon were the other pair of less complex but more seductive lovers. The eloquent bass Lisandro Abadie served as a benign spiritual guide to love.
What proved most remarkable, though, was the exceptional blend of all five voices, which at times seemed as if they were all the same vocal type. They further blended ideally with the ensemble of two violins, viola da gamba, theorbo and Christie’s harpsichord…
Though on a small scale, this evening was an impeccable example of what may be Christie’s greatest contribution to music, demonstrating, particularly in French Baroque opera but also in Handel, Purcell and Mozart, how attention to sensitive detail, to perfectly tuned and turned turns of phrase, can bring out the most astonishing musical colors and sensations.”
Those versed in the Mozart style generally agree that Süssmayr’s work is deeply flawed with technical errors, needless instrumental doubling of voices and a general lack of inspiration (although few non-scholarly ears notice the faults and, as many concede, what contemporary wouldn’t be found lacking when compared to the genius of Mozart?). Yet, the question remains of what, if anything, to do about it. There’s little consensus among editors of modern editions and recordings.
“William Christie plans to lead his Baroque ensemble, Les Arts Florissants, in a pair of concerts at Versailles next summer to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the death of Louis XIV, whose patronage established the French musical style that Mr. Christie has helped revive.
The music of that era — works by Lully, Charpentier, Couperin, Marais and others — lives on, thanks in large part to groups like Les Arts Florissants. The extravagant court patronage, not so much. Now, as Europe grapples with austerity measures and changing paradigms in arts funding, Mr. Christie said that his ensemble, like many others, is learning to adapt…
Les Arts Florissants — the group takes its name from a short opera by Charpentier — will tour this season in Europe, South America and North America, where it will perform in April at Lincoln Center, according to a season announcement the group released this week. Its pending move to the new Philharmonie, where the Orchestre de Paris will be the resident orchestra, highlights the extent to which Mr. Christie — a harpsichordist, conductor and musicologist from Buffalo — has come to be accepted, and revered, in France.
..Les Arts Florissants is commemorating the 250th anniversary of the death of Rameau with a 10-CD boxed set featuring many of Mr. Christie’s Rameau recordings released by the Harmonia Mundi label, and a tour of Luxembourg, Moscow and London with the program “Rameau, Maître à Danser,” presenting two of his choreographed one-act ballets.
And Mr. Christie will bring Les Arts Florissants and six singers from Le Jardin des Voix to New York on April 23 for a concert of Italian music at Alice Tully Hall as part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series…”
Constanze was devastated by Mozart’s sudden death. Yet, despite her depiction in Amadeus as a twit, she had a shrewd business sense and knew that Mozart’s scores, most of which remained unpublished, were a valuable asset which she would come to exploit quite well, quickly clearing Mozart’s debts and having a good life of her own. (Not all of her dealing was above-board, though - after presenting the Count with the completed Requiem score, she kept a copy for herself and had it performed at a benefit concert in January 1793, unbeknown to the Count who thought he would be leading the official premiere that December.) But of immediate concern was collecting the remainder of the commission for the Requiem, which had to be finished.
Mozart took to his bed on November 20 with what has since been diagnosed as rheumatic fever (complicated by childhood bouts with streptococcal infection). While his debilitating symptoms seem appalling by modern standards, according to his sister-in-law Sophie, he was expected to make a full recovery, as did most victims of the same epidemic. On December 4 his condition declined suddenly and was made even worse by misguided medical care of the time, including bleeding and cold compresses. He died shortly after midnight and was buried the next day following an open-air funeral. For reasons that remain unclear (the weather was fine), no one accompanied the casket to the cemetery, where it was placed in an unmarked common grave that has never been found.