David Black

The Early History of the Requiem, 1792-1800


Much of the extensive literature on Mozart’s Requiem has been concerned with the extent of Süssmayr’s involvement and the question of whether Süssmayr was following Mozartian sketches or oral instructions in his completion of 1792. Very little attention has been paid, however, to the subsequent fate of the work in the years leading to its publication in 1800. This paper documents the early history of the completion, using little-known documentary evidence to illuminate the personal and financial dealings of Süssmayr, Mozart’s widow Constanze and the work’s commissioner, Count Wallsegg. These research findings have significant implications for the history of early Mozart reception and future editions of the Requiem.

Constanze is widely suspected of having sold manuscript copies of the Requiem to a number of foreign buyers, breaking the alleged exclusivity agreement with Count Wallsegg, and several performances are known to have taken place in the latter half of the 1790s. It has been possible to identify a number of sources associated with these performances, including a set at
Stift Kremsmünster of particular interest since it was probably used at a performance of the work in December 1796. Although Süssmayr’s structural planning for the latter half of the work
has often attracted criticism, a comparison of contemporary Requiem settings by Pasterwitz (c. 1792), Albrechtsberger (1793), Krottendorfer (1793) and Eybler (1803) shows that the design is entirely characteristic of Viennese practice. The recent rediscovery of a plan for the tomb of Countess Wallsegg, the companion memorial to the Requiem, is an indication of the continuing potential for significant advances in this most controversial of Mozartian topics.

David Black is junior research fellow at Homerton College, Cambridge University. He is preparing a book on Mozart and the practice of sacred music, and has made a new edition of the Mozart/Süssmayr Requiem for Edition Peters.<//font>