Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, K626 – Work No. 84 in our collection

The Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27.01.1756 – 05.12.1791) was, during his short lifetime, one of the most prolific composers of the classical era. He showed prodigious ability from an early age. Already competent as a pianist and violinist, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. Mozart went on to compose more than 600 works, many of which are acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. However his Requiem in D minor, K626 was left incomplete at the time of his death and what we hear today are various completions of the work.

At Mozart’s death, only the Introitus of the Requiem was fully scored. All the other movements, from the Kyrie fugue to the end of the Hostias, were only sketched.The last three movements—Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and Communio— remained unwritten, and nearly all the orchestration was incomplete. For fear that she should have to return all or a portion of the fee, the Mozart’s widow prevailed upon Mozart’s pupil Joseph Eybler to score the middle movements and compose the final three. He touched up the orchestration in parts of Mozart’s manuscript but couldn’t bring himself to add his own work to that of Mozart’s. Constanze Mozart then turned to another student, Franz Xavier Süssmayr, to complete the work. Over time more and more scholar-composers have taking umbrage with Süssmayr’s work and producing their own “authoritative editions” however it is Süssmayr’s completion that is most often heard today and in our view remains the best.

There is a 1975 recording by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner in which the choral singing is particularly fine. For those who want a large orchestra and chorus we can wholeheartedly recommend the version by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with the John Alldis Choir and directed by Sir Colin Davis as part of a 2 CD set entitled Mozart: Great Choral Works on Philips.

But our top recommendation is a more recent slimmed-down version from John Butt and the Dunedin Consort in a near perfect performance that attempts to reconstruct the first performance of this endlessly intriguing work.

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