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There have been many reviews on pop music, but there must be some people, like myself, who also enjoy the classical genre, so this review is for all who appreciate classical music, and especially that of Mozart.
Among my favourite composers are Vivaldi, Paganini, Mendelssohn and Mozart. This review is about Mozart's final, and for me, one of his finest compositions.
It was a lovely sunny January morning, many years ago, when I first heard Mozart's Requiem in D minor in all its stereophonic glory, on my car radio tuned to Classic FM, as I travelled along a quiet country road.
The impact on my senses was such that in my minds' eye I can still see the exact location when the music hit my ears and also remember the exact date, but the reason for that shall be revealed later.
No words can adequately describe the unusual effect it had on me either. Not the 'goose-bump,' or shivers down the spine sort or reaction, or even one that sets the heart going at a gallop. All I can say is that I was transcended and felt a kind of peaceful calmness never before experienced - and to dispel any thoughts that it might be an alcohol induced trance, not a drop of the amber nectar had passed my lips since Christmas - honest.
For several years I searched in vain for the recording on tape or CD, for I didn't own a computer then and had almost given up hope of ever hearing the music again until last year, when I found on Amazon a CD of a live recording of Mozart's Requiem in D minor K626 for the princely sum of £8.20 all inclusive of postage and packaging.
~~~~A brief history of the composer and composition~~~~
Mozart was born in January 1756 and died in Dec 1791, shortly before his 36th birthday. Even so, in his all too brief, yet tremendously productive lifetime, he had composed well over 600 works.
At the age of three he could play a keyboard instrument and at five years of age began composing; by the time he was eight he had composed three symphonies, yet died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave.
In July 1791, five months before his death, Mozart was commissioned, by Count Walsegg zu Stuppach, to compose a requiem to be played annually on the anniversary of his, Walsegg's, wife's death.
Mozart managed to write most of the Requiem and was outlining some of the final fragments, when he became ill and sadly died before completing his works.
Walsegg then commissioned Sussmayer, a former student of Mozart, to finish the requiem; he apparently adapted the already composed Introit and Kyrie, to complete the work.
However, Sussmayer introduced faulty harmonics and so the eventual version we hear today, is the Franz Beyer's version, when he edited out Sussmayer's faults. Interestingly, Sussmayers version has been preserved, though rarely heard.
Three years before his death, Mozart wrote his father a letter on his thoughts on death. Here is the last sentence of that letter, which may explain why his requiem is so uplifting and not the dark, depressing dirge one might expect from such a title. He wrote.
"......I never go to bed without thinking that, as young as I am, I might not awake the following day; nevertheless nobody who really knows me could call me sad or gloomy; I give thanks to my maker every day for this happiness, and wish it with all my heart to all men, my brothers.
Was this deep feeling of faith and spirituality woven into his Requiem, giving some of the fractions an inexplicable ethereal quality, without detracting from the solemnity of the occasion for which it was written?
I truly believe it to be so, for no other musical work has ever had that effect on me before, or since.
A Requiem is, by definition, a mass for the dead; Mozart's Requiem has eight movements, starting with the Intriotus, a prayer for the souls of the departed that they may be granted eternal rest; a reverential and uplifting rendering by the choir and soprano soloist.
This is followed by the Kyrie, a short prayer appealing for mercy, where the choir's sopranos give it a celestial quality, almost as if the angels are themselves, echoing the earthly requests and sending them heavenwards.
The third Movement, Sequenz, is a sequence of six short fractions, again pleading for the soul, that on Judgment day they may be spared harsh retribution.
The first fraction, Dies Irae, which means 'The day of wrath,' is a dramatic musical interpretation of the terrible day when all souls shall be judged. The acknowledgement of the dreadfulness of such an occasion is signaled by the loud, staccato vocalizations of the choir bass and tenors, yet the celestial blending of the alto and soprano voices portrays a feeling of awe rather than fear.
The second fraction, Tuba mirum, is the part where the trumpet summons all souls before the throne on Judgment day. This is a very majestic rendition, where the bass, alto, tenor and soprano soloists jointly ask, to whom do we plead for mercy on this Day of Judgment.
The third fraction, Rex Tremendae, meaning 'Awe inspiring King,' is another dramatically expressive rendering of a fervently earnest appeal to the wondrous, heavenly king, to save those souls worthy of salvation from the pains of hell.
The fourth fraction, Recordare, meaning 'Remember,' is a quiet, more peaceful and humble presentation, requesting that the almighty remember we are the reason for his time on earth and that he saves all repentant souls.
The fifth fraction, Confutatis, meaning diminish or dampen, starts with a stentorian depiction, by the choir, of the terrible fear and dreaded anticipation of punishment; ending with a quieter plea to be spared or at least that any punishment be diminished.
The sixth fraction of the Sequenz, Lacrimosa, meaning 'tearful,' is a more soulful rendition of the request that on the tearful day or reckoning, when man rises from the ashes to be judged, that they may be granted rest.
The Fourth movement is the Offertorium, the offering of praise and prayers to the heavenly king.
It has two fractions, the first, Domine Jesu, which has a wonderfully celestial quality and the second, Hostias, meaning 'sacrifice/offering' is a gentle, yet again celestial rendition of the offering of praise and sacrifice of prayer that the departed may be saved.
The Offertorium is followed by the Sanctus Benedictus, Agnus Dei and Communio, ending with Lux aeterna. Each movement are equally uplifting.
It was the Kyrie and two fractions of the Offertorium, Domine Jesu and Hostias, that first captured my attention, or was it my soul?
The exquisite combination of the choir's soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices, gave it that awesome, ethereal quality.
The music follows the ritual of the mass throughout, but I don't feel it would add interest here to describe the whole mass, suffice it to say that the Requiem reflects musically the fears and wishes of the living for the departed, for which an offering of prayers, thanks and praise is made.
Although the words are important in the mass, it is not necessarily so for the understanding and enjoyment of the music.
Many recordings have been made of Mozart's Requiem in D minor. My album, a 55minute recording of a live performance at "The Grand Auditorium de la Maison de la Radio," RTBF, Brussels in October 1986, was produced by Accent Records.
The soprano soloist was Ingrid Schmithusen, alto, Catherine Patriasz, tenor, Neil Mackie and bass, Mathhias Holle. The orchestra, La Petite Bande, was conducted by Sigiswald Kuijken.
The disc came with a little booklet in English, French, Dutch and Latin, giving a brief history of Mozart's life and how he came to write the requiem, also printed are the words being sung by the choir and soloists.
Included in the booklet is a photograph and brief history of the La Petite Bande, how, when and why it was formed.
For those who are intrigued enough to listen to excerpts from the Requiem, can do so by simply typing "www.utube video Mozart Requiem." in your search engine then clicking on "Video results for Mozart's Requiem." a selection of videos of different sections of the Requiem is then displayed ready for selection.
Or you can go straight to http://www.amazon.com/mozart-requiem-matthias-holle/dp/b00000443x
and scroll down to select and listen to short extracts of each movement of the live recording of the Requiem.
Be mindful though, that the quality of sound will be less than perfect.
To appreciate the true quality and perhaps experience the transcendental aspects of the Requiem (or any classical CD) it really has to be heard in stereophonic sound on a good CD player.
I promised earlier to reveal why it is so easy for me to remember the date I first heard the Requiem.
When one or more rare and notable events occur on the same day, they can become inextricably linked and permanently attached to the memory.
It was the morning of Monday 16th January 1995 when I first heard this wonderful work of Mozart, it was the afternoon of that same day that my mum slipped when getting off the bus and broke her hip. The following Monday she died.
I feel that the solemnity of the Requiem is beautifully counter-balanced by its celestial qualities, making it an uplifting, rather than mournful, composition and one I can listen to at any time, not with any feeling of sadness, but with one of hope, positivity and perhaps enlightenment.
There is no guarantee that this music will have the same impact on everybody, for like any art form, tastes vary from person to person. For me - Mozart hit the right notes. I do hope that maybe he will have hit the right notes for you. His music will go on forever.