Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/122

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.



��is preserved in the Library of the Sacred Har- monic Society.

Our repertoire of modern Requiem Masses, if not numerically rich, is sufficiently so, in quality, to satisfy the most exacting critic. Three only of its treasures have attained a deathless reputa- tion; but, these are of such superlative excel- lence, that they may be fairly cited as examples of the nearest approach to sublimity of style that the 1 9th century has as yet produced. ; .

(i.) The history of Mozart's last work is sur- rounded by mysteries which render it scarcely less interesting to the general reader than the Music itself is to the student. Thanks to the attention drawn to it by recent writers, the narrative is now so well known, that it is needless to do more than allude to those portions of it which tend to assist the critic in his analysis of the Composition. Its outline is simple enough. In the month of July, 1791, Mozart was com- missioned to write a Requiem, by a mysterious- looking individual, whom, in the weakness con- sequent upon his failing health and long-con- tinued anxiety, he mistook for a visitant from the other world. It is, now, well known that the ' Stranger ' was, really, a certain Herr Leutgeb, steward to Graf Franz von Walsegg, a nobleman residing at Stuppach, who, having lately lost his wife, proposed to honour her memory by foisting upon the world, as his own Composition, the finest Funeral Mass his money could procure. This, however, did not tran- spire until long after Mozart's death. Suspect- ing no dishonourable intention on the part of his visitor, he accepted the commission; and strove to execute it, with a zeal so far beyond his strength, that worn out with over-work and anxieties, and tormented by the idea that he was writing the Music for his own Funeral, he died while the MS. still remained unfinished. His widow, fearing that she might be compelled to refund the money already paid for the work in ad- vance, determined to furnish the 'Stranger' with a perfect copy, at any risk ; and, in the hope of accomplishing this desperate purpose, entrusted the MS., first, to the Hofkapellmeister, Jos. von Eybler, and afterwards to Franz Xavier Siiss- mayer, for completion. Von Eybler, after a few weak attempts, gave up the task in despair. Siissmayer was more fortunate. He had watched the progress of the Requiem through each suc- cessive stage of its development. Mozart had played its various Movements to him on the Pianoforte, had sung them with him over and over again, and had even imparted to him his latest ideas on the subject, a few hours, only, before his death. Siissmayer was an accomplished Musician, intimately acquainted with Mozart's method of working : and it would have been hard, if, after having been thus unreservedly admitted into the dying Composer's confidence, he had been unable to fill up his unfinished sketches with sufficient closeness of imitation to set the widow's fears of detection at rest. He did in fact, place in her hands a complete Requiem, which Count Walsegg accepted, in the full belief that it


was in Mozart's handwriting throughout. The 'Requiem' and 'Kyrie' were really written by Mozart ; but the remainder was skilfully copied from sketches now generally known as the ' Urschriften ' which, everywhere more or less unfinished, were carefully filled in, as nearly as possible in accordance with the Composer's original intention. The widow kept a transcript of this MS., and afterwards sold it to Messrs. Breitkopf & Hartel, of Leipzig, who printed it, in full score, in 1800. But, notwithstanding the secrecy with which the affair had been con- ducted, rumours were already afloat, calculated to throw grave doubts upon the authenticity of the work. Siissmayer, in reply to a communica- tion addressed to him by Messrs. Breitkopf & Hartel, laid claim to the completion of the 'Requiem,' 'Kyrie,' 'Dies irae,' and 'Domine,' of which he said that Mozart had ' fully com- pleted the four Vocal Parts, and the Fundamental Bass, with the Figuring, but only here and there indicated the motivi for the Instrumentation,' and asserted that the 'Sarictus,' 'Benedictus/ and 'Agnus Dei,' were entirely composed by himself (ganz neu, von mir verfertigt). This bold statement, however, did not set the dispute at rest. It was many times revived, with more or less acerbity; until, in 1825, Gottfried Weber brought matters to a climax, by publishing a virulent attack upon the Requiem, which he denounced as altogether unworthy of Mozart, and attributed almost entirely to Siissmayer. To follow the ensuing controversy through its endless ramifications would far exceed our present limits. Suffice it to say, that we are now in possession of all the evidence, documentary or otherwise, which seems at all likely to be brought forward on either side. With the assistance of Mozart's widow (then Madame von Nissen), Joh. Andre', of Offenbach, published, in 1826, a new edition of the Score, based upon that previously printed by Messrs. Breitkopf & Hartel, but corrected, by careful comparison, in the presence of the Abbe* Stadler, with that originally furnished to the Graf von Walsegg, and marked, on the Abba's authority, with the letters, M.' and ' S.' to distinguish the parts composed by Mozart from those added by Siissmayer. In 1829, Herr Andre* conferred another benefit upon the artistic world by publishing, with the widow's per- mission, Mozart's original sketches of the ' Dies irae,' ' Tuba mirum,' and ' Hostias,' exactly as the Composer left them. All these publications are still in print, together with another Score, lately published by Messrs. Breitkopf & Hartel in their complete edition of Mozart, in which the dis- tinction between Mozart's work and Sussmayer's is very clearly indicated, as in Andre's earlier edi- tion, by the letters ' M.' and ' S.' Happily, the original MSS. are now in safe keeping, also. In 1 834, the Abb Stadler bequeathed the autograph sketch of the entire 'Dies irse,' with the exception of the last Movement, to the Imperial Library at Vienna. Hofkapellmeister von Eybler soon afterwards presented the corresponding MSS. of the ' Lacrymosa,' the ' Domine Jesu,' and

�� �