Mozart’s haunting Requiem came at the very end of his life: He died before he could finish it. A choral masterpiece featuring four renowned vocalists and the powerful forces of the Albany Pro Musica, it is considered one of the greatest expressions of faith ever cast as a work of art. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the new Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, will lead the orchestra in Mozart’s Requiem as the finale to the classical season on the amphitheater stage.
- In early July 1791, an ‘unknown, gray stranger’ turned up at Mozart’s door saying he represented someone who wanted a Requiem from Mozart on the understanding that he not seek to learn the identity of his patron. Although he believed he had been cursed to write a requiem as a ‘swansong’ for himself and was surely about to die, Mozart was so spooked by the commission that he worked obsessively on the piece.
- Although payment had already been received, Mozart passed away before he could complete his Requiem. His widow Constanze, also fearful of this mysterious commissioner, believed that if the work was handed over incomplete the patron would want his money back. She asked Joseph Eybler to finish the score, but other than orchestrating the music following the Kyrie, he passed the task over to Mozart’s pupil Süssmayer, to whom the composer had given detailed instructions about finishing it. Süssmayer copied the entire completed score in his own hand, making it virtually impossible to determine who wrote what, and gave it to the stranger.
- The ‘mysterious stranger’ was Anton Leitgeb, son of the mayor of Vienna, not Antonio Salieri as the film Amadeus suggests. Leitgeb, already notorious for writing other people’s music off as his own, was hoping to use Mozart’s Requiem to commemorate his late wife, Anna. It would then take a full decade for Constanze to persuade Leitgeb to acknowledge Mozart as the Requiem’s true composer.