A short time before the death of Mozart, a stranger of remarkable appearance, and dressed in deep mourning, called at his house, and requested him to prepare a Requiem, in his best style, for the funeral of a distinguished person. The sensitive imagination of the composer immediately seized upon the circumstance as an omen of his own fate; and the nervous anxiety with which he labored to fulfill the task, had the effect of realizing his impression. He died within a few days of completing this magnificent piece of music, which was performed at his interment. Mozart’s unfinished Requiem has long been shrouded in mystery.
Mozart undertook the commission for an Austrian nobleman, little knowing that he was to write a requiem for himself. Inevitably, the secrecy surrounding the anonymous commission, the circumstances of Mozart’s death, the unfinished state of the work, and its completion under the direction of Mozart’s widow, Constanze, have precipitated two centuries of romantic speculation and scholarly controversy. One book that further explores the history and an analytical study on the Requiem is Christoph Wolff’s Mozart’s Requiem. Christoph Wolff provides a critical introduction to the Requiem in its many facets. Mozart’s Requiem has been a topic discussed for centuries and in Wolff’s book that topic is meticulously broken down. Wolff breaks the book down in two parts.
Part I of his study focuses on the tangled genesis and completion of the work and its fascinating early reception history until Constanze’s death. Wolff summarizes the current state of research on the subject, provides new perspectives on Mozart’s conception of the whole work, and surveys his contributions to the movements composed by his assistant, S”uss mayr. Part II provides a musical analysis of Mozart’s composition, including contextual, structural, and interpretive aspects. Part III consists of an annotated collection of the principal literary documents (1791-1839) that illuminate the fascinating early history of the Requiem. The book concludes with a complete edition of the work that is at the center of Wolff’s study, the authentic score of the Requiem — Mozart’s fragment — supplemented by crucial excerpts from S”uss mayr’s 1792 Requiem completion.