Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Music spot: Mozart, "Requiem Aeternam"

This is the first movement of the Requiem mass which Mozart wrote at the end of his life.

That requiem mass was, as many people know, commissioned by a mysterious masked man. However, the story as depicted in the film "Amadeus" is, despite being fantastically entertaining as fiction, a wicked libel against both the composers concerned.

The masked individual who paid for the requiem was definitely not Mozart's rival Salieri. The real Mozart was nothing like the dissolute rascal depicted in the film.

Far from blocking its performance, Salieri frequently conducted Mozart's work and almost certainly did not murder him. The rivalry between them bore little relationship to that depicted in the popular legend on which the play and film are based.

The mass was actually secretly commissioned by a nobleman who wanted to pass the work off as his own.

At the end of his own life while confined in hospital Salieri did confess to killing Mozart but this appears to have been the deranged ramblings of a sick and dying man and was disavowed during his lucid moments.

Unfortunately the legend of a musical genius murdered by a jealous rival was just too good for people not to repeat, both during Salieri's lifetime and subsequently. But it does not fit the facts.

The lyrics to this first movement mean

"Rest Eternal grant to them O Lord,
And may light perpetual shine apon them."

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