Mass of the dead, of the Roman Catholic Church


Extended musical setting of a sacred text, performed as an opera without scenery, costumes and action.

Each oratorio has its own individual libretto compiled of dramatic, narrative, and contemplative elements, whereas most Requiems set the same liturgical text of the Mass for the dead. A notable exception is Brahms’s A German Requiem, for which he selected the Biblical texts. Requiems and oratorios from the eighteenth century onward employ similar combinations of choral and solo vocal numbers accompanied by orchestra.


  • The Christian tradition of a sung Mass for the dead goes back to 2nd century A.D.
  • Middle Ages: there are 105 known Requiem chants in the Gregorian repertory.
  • Current liturgy set by the Council of Trent 1570; this has provided a template for subsequent composers on which to set their Requiems.
  • Renaissance: Requiems written to polyphonic settings (Ockeghem, Lassus)
  • Pre 1600s Requiems performed a cappella; subsequently they include instruments and soloists
  • Mozart’s Requiem (1791) stands as a landmark inaugurating an era of transition to a more operatic style, with more elaborate solo vocal writing, richer orchestration, and more divisions of the text into individual movements.
  • Many Romantic era Requiems have the dramatic scope and style of opera or oratorio, while still adhering to the liturgical text (Berlioz, Verdi).
  • There are more than 2000 known Requiems composed to date.
  • Modern orchestras and choral groups have programmed Requiems as free standing performances, devoid of their liturgical function.These have appealed to audiences, religious and secular alike.


  • Born in Salzburg, Austria. Father Leopold Mozart violinist and composer
  • Middle name is actually Gottlieb (chosen by God). Later in life, partly in jest he adopted Amade, the Latin version of Gottlieb. After his untimely death his followers elevated the word to the more hagiographic Amadeus.
  • Extraordinary child prodigy; started keyboard at age 3; started composing minuets at age 5; concertized throughout Europe at age 7–10, playing to kings and royaly, astounding audiences.
  • Age 15 (1772) he became concertmaster to the Archbishop of Salzburg.
  • Age 25 (1781) resigned Salzburg post, moved to Vienna and became a freelancer. It was a bad career move at a time when musicians vied for top spots in Europe’s highest courts. The move also strained his relationship with his stage-father.
  • Age 26 (1782) Married Constanze Weber, a commoner from a Mannheim musical family.
  • Age 30 (1786) Marriage of Figaro premiered.
  • Age 31 (1787) Father Leopold died; Don Giovanni premiered.
  • Requiem commissioned. Mozart began composing October 1791.
  • Mozart died December 5, 1791, at age 34.


  • Commissioned by Count Franz von Walsegg, in honor of his wife Anna who died at age 20 in February 1791.
  • Count Walsegg was a “dilettante musician with a taste for dressing himself in borrowed plumage from time to time” (C. Wolff).
  • Count Walsegg remained anonymous and approached Mozart through a go-between in the summer of 1791 for the Requiem Mass. He intended to declare the piece his own creation.
  • Mozart set to work on the Requiem in October 1791; got sick and confined to bed November 20, 1791; at this point he realized he was writing this for himself.
  • Mozart died December 5, 1791, leaving the work incomplete.
  • Count Walsegg had put a down payment on the commission. Mozart’s widow Constanze, financially stressed, now set out to collect the remainder of the money and asked several Mozart friends and pupils to complete the Requiem.
  • Mozart acquaintances who are thought to have added to the Requiem include, Franz Jacob Freystadler, Joseph Eybler, Abbe Maximillan Stadler.
  • The main completion, however, fell upon a 25-year-old Mozart pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who had collaborated in multiple projects with Mozart in the last months of his life (The Magic Flute and The Clemency of Titus)
  • Unbeknownst to the Count and general public, the Requiem was performed in honor of Mozart himself, by his friends and family, at St. Michael’s Church, Vienna, December 10, 1791 (5 days after his death)
  • Completed score was delivered to Count Walsegg, March 1792. Süssmayr forged Mozart’s signature on it. A copy was also sent to King Frederick William II.
  • Count Walsegg had the work performed in December 1793 in honor of his late wife, and took credit for the composition.
  • The mystery surrounding the incomplete Requiem, and exactly what part of it is authentic Mozart versus fake, has spawned a controversy that survives to modern times and has contributed to various theses on the subject.


  • In keeping with the private commission of the work, Mozart did not aim for a grand scale, as might be done for royalty or other great state occasions.
  • The work is concise, with brief individual movements, and instrumentation scored for a relatively small ensemble.
  • At the same time its language, sonority and texture are novel, and make it stand out from antecedent Requiems.
  • Despite its novel musicality, the piece heavily relies on prior models, especially Michael Haydn’s Requiem for structure, and Handel and J. C. Bach for musical style.
  • “In the last years of his life Mozart still had such respect for the great masters that he preferred their ideas to his own” Abbe Maximillian Stadler (Mozart family friend).


The Catholic liturgical tradition calls for the Requiem to be in five main sections. Mozart set his in fifteen movements within these sections.


1. Requiem – chorus, soprano solo, chorus

2. Kyrie – choral


3. Dies irae – choral

4. Tuba mirum – bass, tenor, alto, soprano, 4 soloists together

5. Rex tremendae – choral

6. Recordare – solo quartet

7. Confutatis – choral

8. Lacrimosa – choral


9. Domine Jesu – choral

10. Hostias – choral


11. Sanctus – choral

12. Benedictus – solo quartet


13. Agnus Dei – choral

14. Lux aeterna – solo soprano, choral

15. Cum sanctis tuis – choral


REQUIEM (D MINOR, ends on dominant, A major chord)

  • The mass begins with, Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Eternal rest give unto them O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.)
  • There are 4 verses, the first and last being the same “Requiem aeternam”; the middle two praise the lord and plead that he hear the prayer.
  • As might be expected, the piece begins in a funereal mood. Dramatic forte rising and falling chords create a sobbing effect before chorus enters with Requiem aeternam in polyphony.
  • Michael Steinberg describes this instrumental introduction well: “The opening is a marvel…Against an accompaniment of quiet, detached single notes and chords in strings, two bassoons and two basset horns weave a tissue of sustained lines. Tenderly expressive dissonances occur in the criss-crossing. The music is dark in color, powerful and deeply private.”
  • The motivic source of the melodies that follow is Handel’s Funeral Hymn for Queen Caroline (“The ways of Zion do mourn”), from 1737, transposed from Handel’s G minor to D minor.
  • Notice the repeat on et lux perpetua (perpetual light), and more quiet, solemn tone on luceat eis (grant them), which is a prayed wish.
  • Te decet hymnus (a hymn) is sung by the solo soprano in an aria-like passage.
  • Exaudi orationem meam (Hear my prayer) is loud in the chorus.
  • After an instrumental interlude, the Requiem aeternam verse returns in thick polyphony with louder, more effusive music.
  • Et lux perpetua is more emphatic; repeated three times.
  • Luceat eis is followed by pause.
  • A repeat of Et lux perpetua, luceat eis provides a soft codetta.
  • The section ends on an obvious open cadence, on the dominant A major chord.


  • This is the only part of the mass in Greek.
  • It is a very brief verse: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us.)
  • Despite its brevity, most Requiems make full movements out of multiple repetitions of the phrase.
  • Mozart turns the Kyrie into a massive, festive fugue.
  • This is a strict fugue with two subjects in the tradition of Handel or Bach.
  • The melodic material for the Kyrie fugue is borrowed again from Handel; his Dettingen Anthem, an oratorio-like work.
  • The fugue winds down to a loud, tutti final statement in unison, with loud timpani rolls and a conclusive, closed cadence.


  • This is the most recent addition to the Requiem liturgy.
  • It is a 13th c. poem attributed to Thomas of Celano (1185-1265). It depicts the day of judgment when the saved are delivered, and unsaved cast into eternal flame. It includes verses that are meant to terrify, and others that pray for salvation.
  • It is a lengthy section with multiple verses of different expressive potential. Requiem composers have displayed differing approaches to the Sequence.
  • Mozart presents the section in 6 movements and an Amen.


  • This section tends to be the most dramatic in Requiems.
  • It introduces the day of wrath, a verse that is meant to be horrifying, and most composers treat it as such.
  • The words are:

Dies irae, dies, illa                      Day of wrath! O, day of mourning

Solver saeclum in favilla           See fulfilled the prophet’s warning.

Teste David cum Sibylla           Heaven and earth in ashes burning.

Quantus tremor est futurus     Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth

Quando Judex est Venturus    When from heavens the judge descendeth

Cuncta stricte discussurus        On whose sentence all dependeth!

  • The music is relatively brief, choral, and homophonic.
  • The verse is repeated three times in variation.
  • The first version runs through the verse in a declamatory fashion.
  • The second version has more emphatic timpani rolls and lightning effects in the bassoons, cellos, and basses in accompaniment. The melody has more tone painting especially at Quantus tremor est futurus (Oh what fear man’s bosom rendeth.)
  • In the third version each line after Quantus tremor in male chorus, converses with Dies irae, dies illa, bin female chorus.
  • Repeated treatment of Cuncta stricte discussurus (On whose sentence all dependeth) provides a coda.
  • NOTE: Mozart’s Dies Irae is a melodramatic, operatic statement of the terror. It does not sound ecclesiastic. Many subsequent Romantic Era composers, most notably Verdi, took this example and turned up the drama several notches on the Dies Irae. Eventually the Dies Irae became so over-the-top that a counter-movement began with some contemporary composers completely omitting it from their Requiems in order to restore some solemnity to the work. Duruflé and Fauré are leading examples.


  • This movement includes 5 verses beginning with Tuba mirum.
  • The verses depict the coming of the Lord, announced by trumpets, the awakening of the dead and issuance of final judgment; all sins are avenged. The last verse is a plea for mercy.
  • Each verse is sung by a different soloist and represents an “aria.”
  • Mozart ingeniously “chains” individual soloists to each other with each subsequent verse in a dramatic and moving progression of musical ideas.
  • First verse is sung by the baritone:

Tuba mirum spargens sonum         Wondrous sound of trumpet flingeth

Per sepulcra regionum                      Through earth’s sepulchers it ringeth

Coget omnes ante thronum              All before the throne it bringeth

  • The baritone begins with the first line and holds sonum. Note the long elaboration for the trombone while the baritone is holding sonum.
  • A lovely trombone melody follows, to which the baritone provides counterpoint starting over with Tuba mirum and singing the whole verse.
  • Tenor takes over the next verse before the baritone ends. This pattern of a fluid flow from one solo voice to another creates a dramatic, ever varying narrative progression.
  • The tenor sings the 2nd and 3rd verses. Accompaniment is repeated-note chords.

Mors stupebit et natura            Death is struck and nature quaking

Cum resurget creatura              All creation is awaking

Judicanti responsura                 To its judge an answer making

Liber scriptus proferetur Lo!   The book exactly worded

In quo totum continetur           Wherein all hath been recorded

Unde mundus judicentur          Thence shall judgement be awarded

Note the higher emotion in the last line Unde mundus judicetur.

Alto takes over at Judex ergo cum sedebit, the 4th verse. The melody and accompaniment are similar to those of the tenor in the prior two verses.

Judex ergo cum sedebit          When the judge His seat attaineth

Quidquid latet apparebit        And each hidden deed arraigneth

Nil inultum remanebit            Nothing unavenged remaineth

  • The Soprano starts the 5th and last verse Quid sum miser tunc dicturus.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus         What shall I, frail man, be pleading

Quem patronum rogaturus              Who for me be interceding

Cum vix Justus sit securus               When the just are mercy needing

  • On the last line Cum vix Justus sit securus the melody becomes fragmented; Justus (just) is emphasized. The line now acts as a codetta, repeated twice more by the various soloists in conjunction, bringing this section to an end.


  • This consists of one verse in which the Lord as Rex (king) is appealed to for mercy and salvation.
  • In most Requiems, the music tends to be regal.
  • Mozart starts with a brief instrumental introduction featuring dotted rhythms—used for centuries, as in Baroque French Overtures, to create the appropriate regal atmosphere.
  • Tutti chorus then cries out Rex (King) three times before the first line of the verse is sung in counterpoint.
  • The lines Rex tremendrae magistratis, qui salvados salvas gratis (King of majesty tremendous, who dost free salvation send us) occupy more than half the movement, and are sung with appropriate fervor (G minor).
  • The last line, Salva me, fons pietatis (Fount of pity, then befriend us), is a plea. The tone of the music abruptly changes, from forte to piano and from regal to gently hymn-like (D minor).
  • Section ends with a closed cadence.


  • “In the Recordare we find the most intimate, personal text in the Requiem,” says Michael Steinberg.
  • In this section Mozart covers the largest number of verses (7), in which an individual appeals first to Jesus and then to God for mercy and salvation.
  • Consistent with the viewpoint of the prayer, Mozart sets the section for individual soloists who sing the verses in an expressive contrapuntal style.
  • The section is in triple meter. The mood is calm and upbeat.
  • The section works like a Rondo with two main melodies presented in the instrumental introduction; the second in particular functions like a ritornello.
  • The running time of Recordare is around 5 minutes.
  • It begins with an instrumental introduction that presents the two main melodies of the movement. The first, mainly in low woodwinds is hymn-like and introduces the main Rondo theme that will be sung by the soloists (1st, 3rd and 6th verses). The second melody mainly in strings, is more lyrical, and will function as an instrumental interlude between the sung verses.
  • The first verse is sung to the main rondo theme:

Recordare Jesu pie,                   Think, good Jesus, my salvation,

Quod sum causa tuae viae,      Caused thy wondrous incarnation.

Ne me perdas illa die.                Lave me not to reprobation.

  • The last line, a plea, is repeated.
  • After a brief instrumental interlude, the second verse is sung to a different melody.

Quaerens me sedisti lassus,          Faint and weary Thou hast sought me,

Redemisti crucem passus              On the cross of suffering brought me;

Tantus labor non sit cassus           Shall such grace be vainly brought me?

  • Once again the last line is repeated.
  • The third verse returns to the main rondo melody

Juste judex ultionis          Righteous Judge! For sin’s pollution

Donum fac remissionis   Grant thy gift of absolution.

Ante diem rationis.           Ere that day of retribution.

  • After an instrumental interlude the next two verses are sung in two different melodies.

Ingemisco tamquam reus       Guilty, now I pour my moaning

Culp ruber vultus meus          All my shame with anguish owning;

Supplicanti parce, Deus.         Spare, O God, thy supplicant groaning.

  • In keeping with the subject, the music is appropriately austere.
  • The fifth verse is more lyrical and rises on the last line of hope.

Qui Mariam absolvisti          Thou the sinful woman savest

Et latronem exaudisti           Thou the dying thief forgivest

Mihi quoque spem dedisti   And to me a hope vouch safest.

  • The Rondo structure continues with the return of the main Rondo theme on the next, 6th verse.

Preces meae non sunt dignae      Worthless are my prayers and sighing

Sed tu bonus fac benigne              Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,

Ne perenni cremer igne                Rescue me from fires undying.

  • Note the slow, drawn out music on the solicitous first two lines, in sharp contrast with the more abrupt music, fearful of burning in hell, on the last line.
  • The final, 7th verse is a final plea and is sung like a hymn with a different melody.

Inter oves locum praesta        With thy favored sheep O place me,

Et ab haedis me sequestra     Nor among the goats abuse me,

Statuens in parte dextra.        But to thy right hand upraise me.

  • The Recordare ends with the instrumental interlude theme trailing off.


  • The two verses of this section describe the casting of the sinful to the flames, and their contrition immediately before.
  • The music is ferociously dramatic on the first two lines of the first verse: Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis (While the wicked are confounded, doomed to flames of woe unbounded.)
  • In sharp and dramatic contrast, the last line of the verse, a plea, Voca me cum Benedictis (Call me with Thy saints surrounded) is slow, gentle, in high register, and hymn-like.
  • “For a moment we are transported to a musical isle of the Blessed” (Wolff).
  • The verse is repeated nearly verbatim with the last plea line elaborated.
  • The second verse, Oro supplex ex acclinis (Low I kneel with heart submission), an announcement of contrition and plea for help is soft, in low register, with quiet sixteenth-note afterbeats in the strings.
  • It ends yet lower and, following its cadence in F, interjects a chord as a dominant preparation for the ensuing Lacrimosa.


  • This section is a tear jerker!
  • Only the first 9 measures were composed by Mozart. Süssmayr completed the rest.
  • The Lacrimosa consists of three verses, with a total of seven lines. Süssmayr divides the musical grouping of the lines asymmetrically. These conclude with the Day of Wrath in a statement that this is a day of tears and mourning. It makes one last plea to God for salvation, and ends with an Amen.
  • The words are:

Lacrimosa dies illa Ah!       That day of tears and mourning!

Qua resurget ex favilla       From the dust of earth returning

Judicantus homo reus         Man for judgement must prepare him

Huic ergo parce, Deus         Spare, O God, in mercy spare him

  • Next verse:

Pie Jesu Domine         Lord all pitying, Jesus bless,

Dona eis Requiem      Grant them thine eternal rest

Amen                            Amen

  • The music functions somewhat like a theme and two variations.
  • A sobbing string introduction is followed by a mournful melody on Lacrimosa, dies illa (Ah! The day of tears and mourning.)
  • The second line Qua resurget ex favilla (from the dust of earth returning), tone paints with detached declamation that mimics slow, tired walking steps.
  • Music rises dramatically on Judicantus homo reus (Man for judgment must prepare him.)
  • In the next version the first three lines are now set using variants of the mournful Lacrimosa melody, now followed by the second line of verse 2, Huic ergo parce, Deus, in steady chords, ending with the first line of the third verse, Pie Jesu Domine (Lord all pitying, Jesu blessed.)
  • An instrumental interlude follows.
  • The third and last version begins in a highly emotional recitation of Dona eis Requiem with the sobbing music of the introduction and drumbeats. The line is then repeated in a new, basically descending chordal declamation. The descending music, along with diminuendo dynamics infuses the prayer with a particularly supplicant feel.
  • A rising instrumental line then ushers in a plagal cadence with the “Amen.”


  • This consists of two long verses each followed by the same fugue.
  • The first verse Domine Jesu Christe (O Lord Jesus Christ) is a prayer to Jesus to rescue the faithful from Hell.
  • The second, Hostias et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus (We offer Thee, O Lord, sacrifices and prayers), is an offering to God for the salvation of the souls of the departed.
  • The two identical passages after each, set to a fugue are: Quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus (Which Thou didst promise to Abraham and his seed).

DOMINE JESU (G MINOR, ends on dominant) – QUAM OLIM (G MINOR)

Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,            O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,

Libera animas omnium fidelium.              Deliver the souls of all the faithful.

Defunctorum de poenis inferni et de        Departed from the pains of hell and

Profundo lacu: libera eas de ore leonis.    from the deep pit; deliver them from the Lion’s mouth

Ne absorbeat eas tartarus,                           That hell may not swallow them up,

Ne cadant in obscurum.                               And may they not fall into the darkness.

Sed signifier sanctus Michael,                    Thy holy standard bearer Michael,

Repraesentent eas in lucem sanctam         Lead them into the holy light.

  • Domine Jesu is choral, in a rapid, homophonic declamation with arpeggiated string accompaniment; note emphasis on Rex gloriae (King of glory), and tone painting with profundo lacu (deep pit) sung quietly in low range.
  • At ne absorbeat eas tartarus (that hell may not swallow them up), the music turns polyphonic, with imitative entrances.
  • At sed signifier sanctus Michael (thy holy standard bearer Michael), solo voices in imitation are featured.
  • Now comes the massive Quam olim Abrahae fugue with a continued agitated string accompaniment; the fugue rises and falls several times, dissolving to quiet homophony on the second-to-last setting of et semini ejus, only to re-erupt dramatically with a forte Quam olim as a codetta. The fugue ends with an amen-like et semini ejus.
  • NOTE: the rich variety of musical texture packed into this movement, which is no more than 3.5 minutes long, is remarkable.

HOSTIAS (Eb MAJOR, ends on dominant for G minor) – QUAM OLIM (G MINOR)

  • This is the second long verse of the Offertorium to be followed by the same Quam olim fugue you just heard.
  • The words are: Hostias et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus: tu suscipe pro animabus, illis, quarum hodie, memoriam facimus. (We offer to Thee, O Lord, sacrifices and prayers: do thou receive them in behalf of those souls whom we commemorate this day.)
  • This verse is sung in two variations. They are both homophonic. The first version is sung quietly with scant accompaniment. In the second version individual words emphasized.
  • A final line, Fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam. (Grant them O Lord, to pass from death onto life, Which Thou didst promise) acts as a codetta.
  • Music winds down with a brief instrumental tag and a fermata (pregnant pause).
  • This ushers in the second, and by now familiar, “Quam olim” fugue.


  • From this point on the Requiem was composed by Süssmayr (though the concluding Lux aeterna and Cum sanctis tuis repeat Mozart’s music of the Introit and Kyrie).
  • Musical scholars, in comparing Süssmayr to his master, have criticized this music as weak.
  • Sanctus is actually a relatively brief verse in which the Lord is praised. The section, however, is treated like the Offertory, in two movements, each featuring an ending fugue.
  • The first movement, Sanctus is followed by the Hosanna in excelsis fugue.
  • The second movement, Benedictus, is followed by a shorter version of the same fugue.


  • Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Domine Deus Sabaoth (Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts) is sung loudly, in tutti chorus with timpani rolls and striding bass line, in a regal, ceremonial passage reminiscent of Rex tremendae.
  • A second line: Pleni sunt caeli et terra Gloria tua (Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory) follows in similar style.
  • Then comes the Hosanna fugue in the key of D major. It is a single line of three words: Hosanna in excelsis (Hosanna in the highest).
  • It is shorter and less exciting than the Quam olim Abrahae fugue written by Mozart himself. It proceeds with a thinner texture and allegro tempo to an abrupt end.


  • The second subsection of the Sanctus is the Benedictus. It consists of a single line of verse:
  • Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini (Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord)
  • The music is andante, the mood soothing and heavenly. The structure consists of the line sung in variations and textures that are ever more elaborate and ornamented.
  • After a brief instrumental introduction, the solo alto sings the line, which is repeated in ornamented variation by the soprano. Various soloists male and female now repeat the phrase in polyphony, in a yet more elaborate and ornamented version.
  • An instrumental interlude of alternating winds and strings introduces the baritone who recites the line more emphatically, with other soloists echoing. The line is then sung by the two male soloists followed by the group.
  • A quiet instrumental interlude harkens back to the end of Requiem aeternam from the Introit and its transition to the Kyrie. This interlude introduces the second Hosanna fugue in the key of B flat. It is quite brief and serves as a coda.
  • NOTE: Süssmayr has received widespread criticism for changing the key of the 2nd Hosanna from D major to B flat. Christoph Wolff calls this move “absurd.” Michael Steinberg: “A needless clumsiness.”

AGNUS DEI (D MINOR, ends on dominant of Bb major for next movement)

  • This verse repeats the same line three times:
  • Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi; dona eis requiem.
  • Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, give them rest.
  • At the end of the last repetition the word sempiternam is added as a coda, requesting eternal rest.
  • The prayer is an appeal to Jesus to let the deceased rest in peace.
  • The chorus sings the first line until peccata mundi, with a beating accompaniment leading to a climax. Then for dona eis requiem the music calms into a solemn appeal as in the salva me line of the Rex tremendae.
  • The next repetition is a variation of its precedent, but without the dramatic climax.
  • The third repetition starts louder, with the beating accompaniment more emphatic, and without change of register at dona eis requiem. Rather, music then calms, on the added word, sempiternam. This is sung solemnly, led by the sopranos, then joined by the other voices in a style that, though chordal, is reminiscent of plainchant.
  • The section ends on an F major chord as dominant, in preparation for the Communio.


  • Mozart, via Süssmayr, chose end the Requiem with this movement. Some composers add Pie Jesu, Libera me, or In Paradisum.
  • The section consists of two verses with the last sentence of each repeated.
  • In this section the music reverts to the very beginning of the work.
  • The first verse is the same request for eternal light as in the Introit:
  • Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine: Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum: quia pius es.
  • May eternal light shine upon them, O Lord: With thy saints forever, for Thou art merciful.
  • The music is the same as in the Introit, beginning on the second verse of Mvmt 1.
  • Lux aeterna verse is sung by the soprano, with the Te decet hymnus melody of the Introit.
  • The chorus joins in a repetition of the verse in polyphony, the music coinciding with the Exaudi verse of the Introit.
  • An instrumental interlude, again following the Introit narrative, leads to the second verse:
  • Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis; Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum pius es.
  • The first sentence of the verse is the now familiar Requiem aeternam as in the last verse of the Introit. As in the Introit, it ends with an obvious open cadence at luceat eis.
  • The second sentence, Cum sanctis, which was earlier sung in recitative fashion by the soprano, now provides a surprise. Cum sanctis comes along as a strict fugue identical to the Kyrie eleison of the Introit.
  • The fugue resolves and the chorus sings quia pius es in a slow, homophonic declamation for a conclusive codetta.
  • The work ends rather simply with this choral treatment, the instruments doubling the choral lines instead of providing independent flourishes of their own such as timpani rolls or loud wind or brass countermelodies.
  • Thus Süssmayr makes a cautious choice in ending the work with his master’s own music rather than attempting a grand finale of his own.
  • Some scholars believe that Süssmayr had instructions from Mozart to conclude this way.
  • Says Michael Steinberg, “And so, Mozart does at least have the last word.”



Now that we have the work in our ears in some detail, I’d like to discuss the controversial issue of the incomplete Requiem.

In December 1791, when Mozart died, there was only one section of the Requiem that was truly complete: the first movement, Requiem Aeternam. The Kyriae was nearly complete and it is believed that Mozart’s pupil and friend Freystädler finished it by contributing the colla parte parts to the accompaniment. Colla parte means instruction to the musicians regarding the manner and tempo of the soloists.

The Dies Irae, Tuba mirum, Rex tremendae, Recordare, Confutatis, Lacrimosa, Domine Jesu and Hostias were in various stages of incompletion. The Lacrimosa in particular, as I already indicated, had only the first nine measures. Mozart had composed nothing for the Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Communio.

Constanze, Mozart’s widow, had first turned to Freystädtler who completed the Kyrie, to finish the manuscript. Freystädtler refused. She then turned to a former Mozart pupil and respected composer Leopold Eybler. Eybler is believed to have completed the orchestration of five sections of the Sequence. He was to complete the work, but he too subsequently withdrew.

That’s when 25 year old Franz Xaver Süssmayr entered the story. He was a recent pupil of Mozart, having begun to study with him in 1791. He was “Not excessively gifted,” as Michael Steinberg puts it. He had helped Mozart with the operas The Magic Flute and The Clemency of Titus, the latter when the composer was sick.

Steinberg considers Süssmayr’s work on the Requiem “slipshod in technique and inadequate in invention.” A good example of this is the major difference between the dramatic Quam Olim fugue of Mozart’s versus the much duller Hosanna fugue of Süssmayr.

Christoph Wolff who wrote an influential book about the Requiem agrees, calling the Hosanna fugue, Süssmayr’s only attempt at polyphony, “a textbook example of a regular, almost pedantic fugal development.”

Wolff opines: “There are it is true, all kinds of infelicitism, technical solecism, and an absence of contrapuntal facility and inspired ideas, but these are features of other works by Süssmayr.”

Such criticism of Süssmayr has continued through the centuries. In the late 20th century various alternatives to Süssmayr’s were composed. Yet Süssmayr’s version retains its primacy and he has his champions.

Even Christoph Wolff, considering Süssmayr’s inexperience and the time pressure under which he completed the Requiem, calls his achievement, “astonishing.”

Famous conductors who favor Süssmayr include Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Sir Colin Davis, Herbert von Karajan, Sir Neville Mariner, Sir Georg Solti, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Steinberg speculates that “Süssmayr’s continuing hold….rests on the fact that he was, after all, in steady and often close contact with Mozart in 1791, and…many of his decisions were based on verbal instructions by Mozart.” Furthermore, Constanze Mozart claimed that she turned all papers and sketches pertaining to the work over to Süssmayr.

My own personal opinion on the matter is that it is unfair and unrealistic to expect anyone step in as another Mozart. Given the tragic circumstances of Mozart’s untimely death and the time pressure imposed by his widow Constanze, Süssmayr’s accomplishment is indeed astonishing.

Furthermore Süssmayr’s patch on the unfinished work has stood the test of time and remained in the repertoire. This did not have to be so. There are works in the repertoire performed in their incomplete version, most notably Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Mozart’s Requiem could also have been such a work, performed without the Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Communio. But it isn’t.

Time can be very cruel on works of art, causing many to disappear from view. It has clearly favored the Mozart- Süssmayr Requiem. Therefore we should take the scholarly criticism of Süssmayr’s patch with a grain of salt.


Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) would be unknown to us contemporary audiences, were it not for the famous 1984 movie Amadeus, directed by Milos Forman.

An Italian born Classical composer of operas, Salieri, who spent his adult career in Vienna, was much respected in his own time and achieved the honorable status of Kapellmeister, music director of the court, to the Habsburgs.

The movie depicted Salieri as a Machiavellian figure, jealous of Mozart’s talent and scheming to undermine him. In the story, the go-between who commissions the Requiem is hired by Salieri who then facilitates Mozart’s path to his premature death.

This defamation of Salieri is not new. Rumors that Salieri poisoned Mozart circulated soon after Mozart’s death. They got codified, in a manner of speaking, by Alexander Pushkin in his 1830 play Mozart and Salieri. This was turned into an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov in 1898.

In modern times, the story was revived by Peter Schaffer in his Broadway play Amadeus (1979) which spawned the Milos Forman movie five years later.

Historical evidence suggests that Mozart and Salieri knew each other and had a congenial professional relationship. Salieri’s name appears in several letters Mozart wrote to his father. At the time there was some rivalry in Vienna between German and Italian composers and this may have been the source of the eventual rumors.

It is also quite certain that the manner in which the incomplete Requiem was finished and released, contributed to the rumor mill. Constance Mozart and Süssmayr kept the unfinished condition of the Requiem a secret and presented the final manuscript as belonging to Mozart. Süssmayr went so far as faking Mozart’s signature on the manuscript.

Count von Walsegg extended the intrigue in his own way by claiming the Requiem to be his own creation.

It is a wonder that the Requiem survived the grand tragedy and extensive scheming that accompanied its birth. The credit for this belongs to Mozart himself, whose music, although incomplete, was powerful enough to assure the Requiem a spot among the classics of Western civilization.