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Program Note

Gregory Spears

A New Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei for the Mozart Requiem

for mixed chorus (SATB) and soloists, and orchestra

vocal score (2013)
CommissionCommissioned by Patrick Dupré Quigley and Seraphic Fire
PremiereNovember 15, 2013 Fort Lauderdale, FL, All Saints Episcopal Church (USA) · Conductor: Patrick Dupré Quigley · Firebird Chamber Orchestra · Seraphic Fire
Instrumentation2 basset horns in F, 2 bassoons; 2 trumpets in B-flat, 3 trombones; timpani; organ, strings
PublisherSchott Music
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Program Note

While researching Mozart’s Requiem, I came across a rare recording by conductor Eugen Jochum from 1955. On the recording, the traditional Mozart/Süssmayr completion was performed as part of a memorial service in Vienna. This historical recording — which interpolated organ improvisations and chanted texts into the musical fabric — was a reminder that a Requiem, when performed as a mass, invites music from different sources and time periods. Mozart’s work was itself highly influenced by earlier music and begins with a conspicuous borrowing from Handel’s Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline. While my new music does not sound like Mozart, it is written in a manner that pays homage to the juxtaposition of old and new styles apparent in Mozart’s late work and much of the liturgical music of the period. One of the enduring stories concerning the Requiem, was that the composer’s wife, Costanze, gave Süssmayr some musical “scraps” left by her husband to help the young composer write the missing movements. In homage to this myth, I have incorporated two cadential fragments from Süssmayr’s completion into the end of my Benedictus and Agnus Dei. Are these short passages possibly Mozart’s last writings, or are they Süssmayr’s invention? Our inability to answer such questions generates passionate debate concerning the Requiem and its fragmentary nature.

- Gregory Spears

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