Mozart Requiem

Anybody who has seen the movie Amadeus is familiar with Mozart's Requiem. As it capped Mozart's career, so it was chosen to complete the Mozart Festival of the San Francisco Symphony in June 2001. The Mozart Festival was conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, one of the world's foremost interpreters of Mozart. In fact, he conducted his orchestra, Academy Of St. Martin-In-The-Fields, for the soundtrack of Amadeus.

Although it has four vocal soloists, the real star of the piece is the chorus, featured in almost every movement. This was reflected in the applause of the audience when the chorus took its bow afterwards - the hall exploded with cheering. Sir Neville commented the next evening during warmup that he had never seen anything like it except at a football match - for it to happen at a classical music concert was unprecedented in his experience. We in the chorus have mostly gotten used to how appreciated we are by the Symphony's audience, so it was a nice reminder to not take it for granted.

This was the first time I had performed the Requiem, and it was interesting to discover how much of it was already familiar from Amadeus and various other sources. One thing which I had not known was that Mozart had not completed the Requiem before dying - the work was completed from his notes by one of his students, Franz Sussmayr. It becomes quickly apparent in the music as well. Mozart's movements are brilliant, with unexpected tonic and rhythm changes, whereas Sussmayr's are far more pedestrian and conventional. The difference is striking, even to my relatively untrained ear.

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