Important Announcement

Hi everyone,

Even though I said in my previous update that I’ll probably continue posting every two to three months, this has become impractical and nearly impossible given the circumstances. For the time being, I’ll be compiling all my writings on the Mozart Requiem into a complete book and won’t be writing anything new for a long time. I will also stop posting at for a while because I’m also working on finalizing those articles.

Thank you for your consideration.


Another Update

Hi everyone,

I really have no idea about the future of this blog at this point. I’m going into high school in September, and now during the summer I am busy with a million different obligations. (Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but hopefully you all get what I mean.) In addition to all these things, I’m working on my third mass setting in addition to a lengthy musical analysis, and due to copyright problems in the past, I’m not going to post anything else about that project.

I obviously don’t plan on abandoning blogging altogether, since I enjoy it so much, but I will post much more infrequently. The last time I wrote, I believe, was in January! Maybe once every two or three months, perhaps. And due to requests and suggestions, I’ll expand on my topics as well.

It’s not just about Mozart’s Requiem anymore, which I used as a starting point in my interest in musicology. I’d like to write about other things concerning music in general, which brings me back to my purpose of blogging in the first place: music and musicology are important because their historical importance and their relationship to life.

I would go into greater detail, but that’s for next time!


I know it’s been a while since I last posted, so I’ve decided to write a short update.

I’ve mostly been working on my Latin mass setting lately, and I’ve already gotten much of the Kyrie and Gloria done, which is a good thing, because the Gloria needs to be done before Lent! (For non-Catholic readers who aren’t familiar with liturgical traditions, the Gloria and Alleluia are not sung during Lent.)

As my regular readers probably know, I started this blog mostly to write about Mozart’s Requiem. Now, however, my list of topics has grown, and I’ve been writing about other things lately. (You can see all that on my other blog, What I lack is a series of articles on the Requiem in chronological order. So I plan on doing that as my next project on this site, using material left over from previous research because right now I’m busy with the mass setting and an analysis of Sussmayr’s Missa Solemnis in D, as well as a paper on music and theology!

A few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at another extension of the Osanna fugue from Mozart’s Requiem. If you recall, I wrote my first attempt last June, and now when I look back at it there are several “grammatical” errors! The new one, I hope, is much more technically competent and perhaps – more interesting! It’s also shorter, which works better with the liturgical traditions Sussmayr clearly kept in mind while completing Mozart’s Requiem in 1792.

The recording can be found here.

How Technology Has Impacted Music

Many jobs that were common in past eras are now done by machines in the modern world. Two hundred years ago, the Luddites protested and rioted during the European Industrial Revolution because new machines and technologies were replacing their jobs and/or lowering their wages. Fast-forward to today. Before calculators were invented, mathematicians were respected for their ability to do arithmetic very quickly. Who values this skill today? Even a machine could do that, so why employ a human being for the same purpose? In the field of math, schools today are focusing more on problem-solving and creative thinking than arithmetic.

Speaking of creative thinking, are technologies also changing how things are done in art and music? Some of these technologies have both a positive and a negative side. Let’s discuss music-writing programs first.

A composer can listen to his own music while writing it and make the corresponding change(s). Previously, composers would have to hear the music in their heads while writing, and/or play their own music on an instrument while composing. This is okay for small-scale works; for example, a composer who plays the piano can write a piano sonata easily by playing through what they’ve written. However, for large-scale orchestral and choral works, however, sometimes it can be difficult to hear everything in one’s mind (some, myself included, can do this, but only to a certain extent – just forget about writing double fugues in your head!). Music-writing programs and notation software can solve this problem. When you play back your own music to yourself, you can hear issues that you never would have noticed without hearing it.

There is an unfortunate side to this, however. In my opinion, handwriting a score seems to add a feeling of “authenticity” to it. Anyone can create a score on a program, and they all look the same. Because art is subjective and has much to do with emotions, understanding a great composer sometimes requires us to understand their personality and view them as a human being.

A handwritten score just feels more personal, and can help us understand the composer on a human level. It’s just that much more valuable.

Because music-writing programs play back the music you’ve written, many skills that have previously been admired are now being done by machines. As I mentioned above, composers that could hear their music in their head as they wrote were very much respected. These programs can even transpose music for you! Before the invention of this kind of technology, composers had to transpose music using their brains! Learning transposition can help with learning chord progressions, and can raise one’s awareness to how the different keys are related on the circle of fifths. Ever wonder why counterpoint is a skill and an interest that is rapidly diminishing among music students today?

Another way technology has impacted music is by recordings. Again, there are pros and cons to this. With recordings, we can hear deceased musicians play and sing music! Of course, this by no means can replace a live concert, but it has made music more accessible to the general public. We can listen to whatever music we want to, whenever we want. However, attending a live concert is infinitely more powerful (speaking of which, I must hear Mozart’s requiem live – again – sometime soon!).

Technology has become so advanced that even a machine can play and sing music! However, there is no need for performing musicians to worry about losing their jobs and to rebel like the Luddites did. Art can only be created through imagination, creativity, and emotion. Every individual, whether composer or performer, has their own unique personality.

These emotions, expressed through the music, reveal each musician’s unique personality. Every composer and performer strives for individuality, which is completely different from the sciences. The way a machine plays music is monotonous and boring: there is no feeling in the sound. I use a program to write fugues and the computer doesn’t know how to bring out the subject in each voice.

Would you go to a live concert to hear someone playing an instrument or singing like a robot? No, of course not! Human emotions give each performance its unique qualities, and this is something a machine can never replace.

In conclusion, technology has impacted music in both positive and negative ways. As a composer myself, I often use notation software because it is more convenient. I use the “transpose” tool as well, but I know how to transpose by hand. It is important for music students to learn how to transpose. However, later on, they can use software to transpose, but only for the practical purpose of saving time. As for now, there is no fear of technology diminishing the value of art and music. A machine can never replace a human being in the field of music because they, unlike people, do not have emotions. If art does not portray emotions, then it is not art at all. Therefore, there is no need to musicians to protest like the Luddites!

Different Completions of the Lacrimosa

If you’ve ever heard the Mozart requiem, chances are, you’ve heard the Süssmayr completion. What many people don’t know is that there are also other completions, the most famous ones being the versions by Franz Beyer, Robert Levin, Richard Maunder, Duncan Druce, and HC Robbins Landon. Today we are going to take a closer look at one section, the Lacrimosa.

As many people already know, Mozart only wrote eight bars of the Lacrimosa before his death on December 5, 1791. When Joseph Eybler tried his hand at completion, he only wrote two bars in the soprano line before giving up. Finally, the requiem fragment was handed over to Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who, ignoring Eybler’s two bars, composed the most famous version of the Lacrimosa.

After the discovery of the Amen fugue sketch (which most likely was for the end of the Lacrimosa) in the twentieth century, many musicologists, composers, and scholars have reconstructed the Lacrimosa to add the fugue in. Although it isn’t definite that Mozart actually wanted the fugue to be there (Simon Keefe pointed out that Mozart may have sketched the fugue and then changed his mind). Süssmayr may have known that Mozart had changed his mind about adding this fugue, and he cannot be blamed for not writing a fugue; it is possible that he never saw the sketch in the first place. Whatever the reason for Süssmayr’s replacing of the fugue with a plagal cadence, the efforts of modern musicians (most notably Maunder, Druce, and Levin), however flawed, to complete the Amen fugue are still interesting to listen to.

Richard Maunder

Duncan Druce

Robert Levin – this is the complete Levin version, the fugue starts at 22:10

This article about the different completions of the Lacrimosa is based on my own thoughts after listening to this video, which contains the Süssmayr, Maunder, Druce, Robbins Landon, Levin and Beyer completions (note: none of the Amen fugues are here). All of the modern completers have reconstructed the Lacrimosa for a variety of reasons. Levin wanted to create a new version that would retain enough original Süssmayr material in order to avoid startling the audiences too much. Druce’s version is radical because he does not feel constrained to preserve original material, as is Maunder’s. Robbins Landon’s completion of the entire requiem was written as an interesting combination of Eybler’s and Süssmayr’s completions. Franz Beyer did not change the vocal parts in the Lacrimosa, but changed some of the orchestration.

What I found interesting was that although some of these completions were written to “correct” Süssmayr’s “un-Mozartian” music in the requiem and are worthy attempts, no one has produced a version of the Lacrimosa clearly superior to Süssmayr’s.

Süssmayr’s Lacrimosa holds together well, continuing from Mozart’s eight bars, and continues the ascending choral phrase Mozart introduced at “qua resurget ex favilla, judicandus homo reus”. At “Huic ergo parce Deus, pie Jesu Domine,” Süssmayr writes a modulation to F major which is very smooth and expressive (in my opinion). At “dona eis requiem” he recapitulates Mozart’s opening theme, and then the music is descending in direct opposition to the ascending “qua resurget ex favilla” in the beginning before Mozart’s beginning breaks off. The “Amen”, as we already know, is a plagal cadence, which, in my opinion, gives the end of the Lacrimosa (and therefore, the end of Sequence), a sense of finality.

Franz Beyer’s version of the Lacrimosa is the least radical, retaining all of Süssmayr’s vocal parts. He does, however, change the orchestration and uses bolder, and in my opinion, harsher orchestration.

Robert Levin’s purpose of reconstructing the requiem was to create an edition that would sound more “Mozartian” but not create any major discrepancies with Süssmayr’s completion. He retains most of Süssmayr’s music, changing a few things here and there. He enters with the “dona eis requiem” by recapitulating Mozart’s beginning and does not include part of the orchestral link Süssmayr wrote. At the descending part at the end, he enters with the sopranos first, while in Süssmayr’s version, the basses enter first. The only major change Levin made was to alter the ending to create a smooth connection for the Amen fugue to enter, although it appears that he merely kept alternating between 5/3 and 6/4 chords on the dominant. Levin was the first modern-day completer to finish the Amen fugue.

I had mixed reactions after listening to Richard Maunder’s completion. After Mozart’s original eight bars break off, Maunder writes a connecting link to “Huic ergo parce Deus” which is not very convincing. It’s quite obvious, unlike in Süssmayr’s version, that one composer stopped and another continued. And although Maunder’s completion is beautiful in its own way, he strays so far from Mozart’s original theme that the entire structure is built on sand rather than stone. He remains in D minor almost throughout the entire Lacrimosa and totally eliminates the beautiful F major “Pie Jesu” of Süssmayr’s completion. Maunder explained that he had based his completion off of thematic ideas present elsewhere in the requiem; although this unifies the Lacrimosa with the entire requiem as a whole, the section itself doesn’t hold together as well as Süssmayr’s. His Amen fugue turned out much better than his Lacrimosa. Although he probably was familiar with Levin’s completion, his fugue, in general, is still less satisfactory than Levin’s more scholarly edition.

Like Maunder, Duncan Druce clearly had issues with the structure of the Lacrimosa, but in my opinion, his version still holds together slightly better than Maunder’s. However, Druce’s version sounds more like several different thematic ideas and melodies that are poorly connected with each other. He borrows Eybler’s two bars for “Huic ergo parce Deus” to continue Mozart’s fragment, which actually sounds quite good (hat tip to Eybler), but then he launches into something that is completely unrelated to the original Lacrimosa theme. These extended passages are clearly un-Mozartian, and it’s very obvious. However, unlike Levin and Maunder, Druce’s Amen fugue seems to be less out of place and less overwhelming, with a four-minute long Lacrimosa and a two-and-a-half minute long Amen fugue.

Although these modern completions of the Lacrimosa are worthy attempts, none of the completers have produced a version better than Süssmayr’s. It appears that Süssmayr’s version is still the most famous for a reason, the reason being that this is an important historical and cultural work. His completion of the Lacrimosa, in my opinion, has a more clearly defined structure than any of the other completions, and holds together well. The plagal cadence gives a sense of finality, as if Süssmayr is telling the world that death is inevitable. It’s too soon for Mozart’s life to end, but there’s nothing that we, as modern-day musicians, can do to bring back lost music that was never written down.

A Theological Analysis of Süssmayr’s Sanctus in Mozart’s Requiem

First of all, let me make something clear. This article is not intended to be research-based, unlike the others I’ve written about the Mozart-Süssmayr requiem. These are just my impressions of the Sanctus and some insights into the relation between the music and the use of the Sanctus in the Catholic liturgy, as well as Catholic beliefs. I will explain why some of these “strange” harmonies, often criticized by musicologists, actually make sense when put into a theological context.

The basics first: I think the key of D major for the Sanctus makes perfect sense. Richard Maunder, one of the modern completers of the requiem, claimed that Mozart would have chosen C major for the Sanctus. His edition contains no Sanctus and Benedictus because they have nothing to do with Mozart. He retains the Agnus Dei because he believes there is Mozartian material in it, but this is a completely different topic.

The choice of D major for the Sanctus makes sense because the theme is taken from the Dies Irae:



The themes of the Sanctus in the liturgy contrast with the themes of the Dies Irae:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth, pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua. Osanna in excelsis. [Translation: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest.]

Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla, teste David cum Sybilla. Quantus tremor est futurus, quando judex est venturus, cuncta stricte discussurus. [Translation: Day of wrath, day of anger will dissolve the world in ashes, as foretold by David and the Sibyl. Great trembling there will be when the Judge descends from heaven to examine all things closely.]

Similarly, although the Sanctus makes use of the same musical theme as the Dies Irae, the difference between major and minor creates a contrast. The God that is wrathful to the damned on Judgement Day is also the same God (therefore, same musical theme) who is holy and glorious for the saved. Therefore, the major-minor difference provides a difference between wrath and holiness, reflecting the liturgy, and same theme represents that it is the same God.

Now we must turn our attention to the heavily criticized C-natural at “Pleni sunt coeli.” We have to think about the entire structure, as well as the text, of the requiem. In the Sequence (Dies Irae through Lacrimosa), the text shows a person asking for God’s mercy, particularly in the Recordare (English translation):

“Recall, sweet Jesus, ’twas my salvation brought about Thy Incarnation, abandon me not to reprobation. Faint and weary hast Thou sought me, on Thy cross of pain hast brought me, let Thy suffering be not in vain. Final Judge of Justice, Lord grant Thy absolution before the day of retribution. Guilty, now I pour my moaning, all my shame and anguish owning spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning. Thou the sinful woman savedst; Thou the dying their forgavest; and to me a hope vouch-safest. Worthless are my prayers and sighing; yet, good Lord, in grace complying, rescue me from fires undying. With Thy favoured sheep, O place me, nor among the goats abase me, but to Thy right hand upraise me (Mozart Requiem Translation).

In the Offertorythey are praying for the salvation of others.

“Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of the faithful dead from punishment of Hell and from the bottomless pit; deliver them from the mouth of the lion; nor suffer the fiery lake to swallow them up, nor endless darkness to enshroud them. But let Thy holy standard bearer Michael lead them to the sacred light, as once Thou promised to Abraham and his [descendents.] We offer Thee, O Lord, our prayers and sacrifices of praise: accept them for those souls whom this day we commemorate: let them pass, Lord, from death into life, as once Thou promised to Abraham and his [descendents]” (Mozart Requiem Translation).

The Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei are not only part of the requiem mass, but also part of the Ordinary of the Mass, though for the Agnus Dei, “miserere nobis (have mercy on us)” is changed to “dona eis requiem (grant them rest)”, and “dona nobis pacem (grant us peace)” is changed to “dona eis requiem sempiternam (grant them eternal rest).”

The text of the Sanctus calls for music that, unlike the previous sections, is not sad or desperate. Following the liturgical themes introduced in the Sequence and Offertory, let’s assume that all the saints and angels in heaven are saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest!” For those who believe in heaven, they’d probably think that heaven is so “beyond this world” that they wouldn’t really know what to expect yet.

Who would be expecting a C-natural in the D major Sanctus? It comes as a surprise, like the saved are thinking, “Wow! What a wonderful surprise! Heaven is better than I thought!”

Of course, there is no way to know if Süssmayr intended the Sanctus to be this way, or if he was using the C-natural to modulate to E minor (there is a D-sharp in the tenor right after the basses sing C-natural). Many musicologists assume the latter and criticize the harmony, but if Mozart had written it, they would probably be praising his boldness and daring. Whatever the reason for the C-natural, it makes sense after being put into a theological context.

The Sanctus and Osanna fugues have long been criticized for their brevity, and many modern versions (by Robert Levin and Duncan Druce in particular) have lengthened them in their own editions of the requiem. Although their fugues, musically, are more developed and much longer, it doesn’t make as much sense liturgically.

The Sanctus was always short in the Viennese Mass tradition because the Benedictus would act as an Elevation motet, and the Elevation of the Host could not be long delayed. The Canon of the Mass (the Prayer of Consecration) began immediately after the Sursum corda and Preface. Süssmayr (a Catholic) probably knew exactly what he was doing by not delaying the Benedictus with a longer Osanna fugue.

Mozart almost never wrote long Osanna fugues in his own masses. The brevity of Süssmayr’s Osanna is only a problem when it is compared to the double fugues in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, but the C Minor Mass and the Requiem served completely different purposes.

Some musicologists complain that Süssmayr overused the drums in the Sanctus, but this can be explained theologically as well. My thought is…why not? Think about the text again. Wouldn’t the drums make perfect sense to show the glory of God?

Of course, these are just my own thoughts. Of course, there are undeniable musical shortcomings in the Sanctus, but I can suffer a few parallel fifths if the music corresponds with the text liturgically and theologically. In my opinion, the meaning the music demonstrates is more important than any technical rules of composition.

My Extension of the Osanna Fugue


As much as I respect Süssmayr’s completion of Mozart’s requiem, I still think the Osanna fugue is very short (musically speaking). Liturgically speaking, the Sanctus makes perfect sense and might be the perfect example of how church music should correspond with the text of the Catholic liturgy. If the requiem is ever used for liturgical purposes (though it’s unlikely because the Catholic Church has stopped using the Dies Irae as the Sequence since the Second Vatican Council), I would vote on keeping the Osanna that short to avoid delaying Communion.

My musical instincts took over and I thought, after analyzing the Osanna fugue, what a great fugue subject. Too bad Süssmayr was rushing to finish the requiem so Constanze could collect her payment!

There are already many “extensions” to the Osanna fugue by Robert Levin and Duncan Druce, but every time I listen to them, I get a strange feeling of dissatisfaction. Both, to me, seem to stray too far from what may have been Süssmayr’s original intention (and Druce’s cadence is unconvincing). Knowing that Levin’s intention was to create a new edition of the requiem that retained the familiarity of Süssmayr’s version, I wondered why he didn’t keep Süssmayr’s final five bars.

Just for the fun of it, and as a contrapuntal exercise, I decided to try extending the fugue. I keep all of Süssmayr’s material. The entire development section fits between the first 23 bars and the final 5 bars. The cadence is perfectly logical; why did everybody else change it?

First things first. I’ll show you the first 23 measures of Süssmayr’s original, so that my explanations of the development will make more sense.




For those of you familiar with the requiem, it’s obvious that after the 23rd bar comes the cadence. I stopped copying the original here and started wondering how to proceed. My attention turned to the phrase where the soprano has an octave leap in bar 20. Where else did this motif occur? I noticed it also was presented, an octave lower, in the tenor line from measures 12-15:

The three notes A, B, and C# in the soprano at bar 23 was meant to lead into the cadence starting on D, since C# is the leading tone here. I studied the tenor line for a while and then I knew exactly how to proceed. Why not have the sopranos continue, at measure 24, with what the tenors are singing at measure 16?

The phrase the altos were singing at from measures 15-19 was sung by the bass at measures 23-27, which I added. Since the tenors come in with the subject on the second beat of measure 21 but don’t finish it because of the cadence, I thought, just let them finish. Sure enough, this also corresponds to first entrance of the soprano voice on the second beat of measure 13.

So here is the beginning of my continuation:


(Note: the notes that are yellow or red are nothing to worry about; the program is just trying to say that these notes are around the upper limits of the ranges.)

I made use of the motif introduced in the bass at measure 22 in Süssmayr’s original in both the bass and soprano lines here. This motif is later seen in F# minor here:


As you can see, as short as Süssmayr’s Osanna fugue (or rather, fughetta, as I would say) may be, it has some very promising material that can be developed.

And, of course, I kept his original cadence:


I could go on and on, but I think I should end here with the YouTube video of the fugue that I made:

I know the fugue isn’t perfect, and that artistic opinions are subjective, but I tried my best as a self-taught thirteen-year-old composer!

Update: By the way, I also did a completion of Mozart’s Amen fugue sketch:

Sanctus Fail

I will not be discussing the Mozart-Süssmayr Requiem today, so the “Sanctus” is certainly not the Sanctus in the requiem. The Sanctus I will be discussing today is actually my own Sanctus, which I wrote, with my first orchestration attempt, sometime last November. I started a mass last November and then forgot about it, and recently I’ve decided to come back to it. 

Don’t ask me why I decided to start the mass last year with the Sanctus…I don’t know why. The Osanna fugue in this section was my first-ever attempt at writing fugues as well, and for the most part I was quite pleased with it. However, now that I re-analyze it, I’ve noticed that after the entrance of the four voices – bass, tenor, alto, and soprano, in this order – I run for the exit. I didn’t attempt to modulate or develop the theme further. Worst of all, as I will show you soon, I ended up with parallel fifths and octaves…in the fugue!

Alright, let’s start at the beginning…

Page 1 of the Sanctus

First of all, the viola part was written with treble clef because at the time I could barely read alto clef. I sing soprano, so I’m used to reading soprano clef, and I play the violin and piano, so I know treble and bass clef extensively well. However, alto and tenor clefs are a completely different story.

Although I wrote “tonic chord overuse” in the lower right-hand corner, I meant for the first four bars in the choir parts to be based entirely off of the tonic chord of C major, the key of this section.

It was the orchestration that I noticed first. There were obvious parallel octaves between the first and second violin at the last three notes of measures 1 and 2. Not to mention that there was a clash between the D in the first bar of the second violin part and the E in the cello part! The first and second violin part and the cello part in measure 4 were obviously parallel octaves, and I was horrified to find all these mistakes.

Speaking of which, I once wrote a short dialogue between an angry music professor and a terrified composition student. It went something like this:

Angry professor: Can’t you see that there are these blatantly wrong parallel fifths between the first violin and the bass line?! What were you thinking?!

Terrified student: Um… I didn’t know that wasn’t allowed in orchestration… Wait, this isn’t a harmony class, is it?

Needless to say, while looking over these obvious technical errors in my own orchestration, I felt like I was playing the roles of the angry music professor and the terrified composition student at the same time (although I’ve never actually had a composition lesson in my life).

Page 2

Wait… What is with the third measure on the second page?! The first and second violins are in parallel fifths, and it is painfully obvious! The first bar on this page is strange too… The first violins, for some reason, are playing along with the altos, while the second violins are with the sopranos. Suddenly this switches in the second bar; there, the first violins are with the sopranos, and the second violins are with the altos, the way it’s supposed to be structured.

I don’t remember what I was thinking; it might have been a brain freeze, but I have a feeling that I intended for something special to happen. Whatever it was, it certainly didn’t work out! Something really random, however, was the clash between the F and G in the cello and bass parts. I don’t really know why I decided to write different parts for the cello and bass parts; since they usually play the same thing, I might as well just write one part for both…

Page 3

Okay, this is starting to get a little ridiculous… I won’t even say anything about the orchestration, considering how obvious the errors would be to any trained musician (at least I get to have a good laugh here at myself…).

Page 4

The first thing that you probably noticed was the parallel octaves between the tenor and bass voices. And also, in the fourth bar on this page, every single note is a C!!!

Alright, now on to the “fugue”…

Page 5

Yes, you saw that correctly. Perhaps doubling the bass voice with the violins (for some reason, I decided to have the first and second violins play the exact same thing here, and I was too lazy to rewrite the notes a second time) an octave higher wasn’t exactly the brightest idea.

Page 6

Alright, I totally messed up on this page. The G and the E in the alto part on this page totally clashed with the F and D in the bass part. Now seriously…how did I not notice??? Considering that I used to make extensive use of octaves and fifths – the perfect consonances – to avoid clashes…

Page 7

This is the page with the parallel fifth I referred to earlier. In the last bar of page 7, the tenors are singing G-F-G-A while the basses are singing C-B-C-D.

Page 8

The parallel octaves in the second to last bar… I won’t say anything else about this page in particular. I don’t understand why I even dared

I think the problem with the fugue especially, is how short it is. When the tenors and sopranos came in on G, it was followed by an F-natural, of all things, whereas the altos and basses sing C and then B, which is a half-step. On the other hand, G to F is a whole step, so in order for the transposition to be correct, the second note should be an F-sharp. However, this isn’t a transposing error; I purposely wrote F-natural to avoid any attempt at entering in G major, the dominant of C.  It was too risky, and I knew it. And now, looking at these technical errors from just seven months ago, I’m guessing the “fugue” would not have turned out very well if I had tried to modulate!

After noticing all these technical errors, I have not decided what I’m going to do with the Sanctus. While I could use the Sanctus (after fixing all these errors, of course) as a piece by itself, whether or not I’ll use it in the actual mass is an entirely different story. I think I’m going to just rewrite the entire Osanna fugue with a better subject and countersubject. Well, we’ll see what happens when I get there! 

Update on May 11, 2017: I never did use this Sanctus for my mass. Seriously – so uninspired! Besides, I stopped writing the C major mass anyway. I’ve written a Missa Brevis in G and am working on a Mass in D. Neither of the Sanctus settings contains voice-leading problems! : )

Süssmayr’s Authorship of the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei

The authorship of the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei in Mozart’s Requiem has been the subject of much debate over the past two hundred years. It’s ironic that the Requiem is always referred to as “Mozart’s Requiem”, since it is nearly completely certain that it was Süssmayr who composed these three movements. And even more strangely, Süssmayr himself only made one official statement about his involvement in the Requiem’s completion: his letter of February 8, 1800 to the publishing company of Breitkopf & Härtel.

In the first part of his letter, Süssmayr explained how he came to be the composer to complete the Requiem. The offer reached him because “it was well known that together with Mozart I had sung and played though the portions he already had set to music. We also had discussed details of its composition, and he had often told me how he planned to orchestrate the individual parts, and why.”

He continued by explaining what Mozart had written and what he, Süssmayr, had added. This phrase is crucial: “The SanctusBenedictus, and Agnus Dei are entirely new; however, in order to give greater unity to the work I took the liberty of repeating the Kyrie fugue to the words Cum Sanctis, etc.”

Süssmayr’s words are ambiguous. The words he used to describe his work in the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei, “ganz neu von mir verfertigt” (translated here as “entirely new”) do not give much insight into the details of the matter. It is generally understood that Süssmayr meant that he had written these sections himself, and many musicologists interpret this statement by saying that Süssmayr meant that Mozart hadn’t been involved at all.

This sounds suspicious, if one continues to read Süssmayr’s letter, in which he writes about his association with Mozart concerning the Requiem. Specifically, he had written:

“The offer [to complete the Requiem] finally reached me, for it was well known that together with Mozart I had sung and played though the portions he already had set to music [italics mine]. We also had discussed details of its composition, and he had often told me how he planned to orchestrate [italics mine] the individual parts, and why.”

If Süssmayr supposedly claimed unconditional authorship of these sections, why did he later say he had discussed them with Mozart? Those same musicologists get stuck on that question. Lots of speculations were the result. However, if one re-reads the letter carefully, one will realize that (as I emphasized above) Süssmayr explicitly stated that he and Mozart and sung and played through the sections of the Requiem that Mozart had already begun. Nowhere does Süssmayr imply that he and Mozart had ever spoken about the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei.

From all this, it should become self-evident that although Süssmayr appears to have had the best intentions in mind when he tried to clarify the information about the Requiem’s authorship, his ambiguous wording, along with the mistranslations and common misinterpretations of his words, have led to a lot of confusion. A very strange contradiction that often occurs is that scholars often want to have it both ways; they want to attribute as much of the Requiem to Mozart as possible, but blame all alleged mistakes on Süssmayr.

The evidence is often misrepresented, and misinterpretation and misunderstanding were the unfortunate results of the controversy. Many assumptions that seem reasonable at first glance become questionable when one examines the evidence thoroughly. Many of these assumptions arise from misinformation about the Requiem which, though popular, are in fact unlikely.

First, many people assume that Süssmayr and Mozart had detailed discussions concerning the requiem. The idea is romantic. Mozart, knowing he was going to die soon and obviously wanting to ensure that the Requiem would be completed, spoke to Süssmayr about his intentions for the work. The idea must have been appealing to the general public, although it is only supported by scanty bits of questionable evidence. It must have seemed so appealing that Peter Schaffer’s “Amadeus” even depicts a scene in which Mozart dictates music to Salieri! Whether it be Süssmayr or Salieri, the amount of information about the Requiem transmitted from Mozart to the other composer has been overestimated.

Second, since it is unlikely a lot of information was given through verbal conversations, it has been claimed that Süssmayr may have received “scraps of paper” that Constanze had found on Mozart’s desk. This is simply an attempt for scholars to attribute as much of the Requiem as possible to Mozart. No solid, concrete evidence exists to support this statement, and the credibility of the witnesses who first mentioned this – Constanze Mozart and her friend Maximilian Stadler – is questionable.

Third, many people say that the SanctusBenedictus, and Agnus Dei are so good only Mozart could have written them. Any mistakes found in these sections are attributed to Süssmayr, so it seems that the scholars are attempting to have it both ways. This statement is merely an opinion, and opinions vary from person to person. Only careful stylistic analysis and biographical evidence about both composers can even scratch the surface of the mystery surrounding the authorship of these three sections.

Fourth, melodic material attributed to Mozart is also found in sections attributed to Süssmayr. Although the first two statements lack evidence to support them, and the third is an opinion, the fourth one requires quite some investigation.

Discussions between Süssmayr and Mozart

It is certain that some discussion about the Requiem must have taken place between the two composers. Many years after Mozart’s death, his sister-in law Sophie Weber (later Haibl) wrote to Georg Nikolaus Nissen, Constanze’s second husband:

“[Franz Xaver] Süssmayr was with Mozart. On the bedcover lay the famous requiem, and Mozart explained to him what his intentions were so that he could finish it after his death.”

Sophie’s statements do not go into greater detail, so no conclusions can be drawn about whether Mozart spoke about the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei with Süssmayr. As explained earlier, Süssmayr’s letter only mentions discussion about the sections that Mozart had already begun to compose. There is no evidence that there was any discussion between Süssmayr and Mozart about the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei.

In regard to discussion about the Requiem in general, it is highly unlikely that Mozart and Süssmayr actually exchanged a substantial amount of information through verbal communication. At most, they only had one or two weeks to talk about the Requiem, since Mozart’s last illness and brief, and his death was rather sudden. It wasn’t until shortly before his death that Mozart became absolutely certain that he would never live to complete the Requiem. And since his condition was deteriorating and he was drifting in and out of consciousness, it is unlikely he could have given much information verbally anyway. In addition to this, his body gave off a foul odor, as reported by those in attendance in his final days, so it must have been difficult for Süssmayr (as well as anyone else), to stay in the same room with him, much less discuss detailed musical matters.

Therefore, although it is certain that some discussion occurred, it is likely that they had only begun. Given what is known about the circumstances surrounding Mozart’s final illness and death, it is implausible that he had given Süssmayr a substantial amount of information through verbal communication.

Scraps of Paper

Since it is unlikely that Mozart gave Süssmayr much information verbally, musicologists – always with the intention to attribute as much of the Requiem to Mozart as possible – began to look for written material. The discovery of an Amen fugue sketch in the twentieth century led people to believe that if one sketch was found, there must be more like it. This is simply flawed logic, and other possibilities must be considered as well. Given the fact that Süssmayr did not have much time to complete the Requiem and was under a lot of pressure, it is possible that he did not have the time to look through any sketches, if they existed at all! And since it is virtually certain that Mozart could not have exchanged much information with him through verbal communication, Süssmayr may not have recognized the drafts had they existed at all.

The only firsthand accounts that mention “scraps of paper” were those of Constanze Mozart and her friend Maximilian Stadler. There are many things wrong with nearly all of Constanze’s assertions, and her credibility – especially when the Requiem is concerned – is questionable. Like many scholars today, Constanze’s intention was to attribute as much of the Requiem to Mozart as possible. Anything she said could have been to maximize Mozart’s share its composition. She had to supply Count Franz von Walsegg, the commissioner, with an authentic Mozart work in order to collect the money she so desperately needed. She also felt she could earn more money by selling and publishing “Mozart’s Swan Song.” Constanze continuously told people that her late husband had “nearly completed” the Requiem before his death.

It is also possible that her friend Maximilian Stadler had lied. A list of wrong notes that Constanze later sent to Gottfried Christoph Härtel, the publisher, was probably prepared by Stadler. Stadler wrote a few articles concerning the Requiem in 1826 in response to Gottfried Weber’s attacks on the authenticity of the work. Stadler claimed that Mozart’s widow had given to Süssmayr some scraps of paper, and that “what these contained and whether Süssmayr made use of them and in what way, she did not know.”

Stadler’s wording is ambiguous. He used the word “Zettelchen,” the diminutive form of the German word “Zettel.” It means a scrap or slip of paper, or even paper itself. This kind of ambiguous language gives no information on how much material was written on those alleged sketches for the Requiem, or even if they existed at all. Stadler never said that the scraps, if they existed at all, were for the requiem.

At the time of Mozart’s death, his musical estate was in complete disarray. Constanze later wrote that “one of his weaknesses was that he was careless with his papers.” There could have been all sorts of papers on his desk that Constanze could have given to Süssmayr, and she most likely didn’t know what they contained. And if Süssmayr had found material irrelevant to the requiem, he probably would have ignored it altogether given the time limits and pressures under which he worked.

To summarize, it is highly unlikely that Süssmayr actually found and understood any drafts for the Requiem. As for the Amen fugue, whose existence is incontrovertible, it is far from obvious what the sketch was for at first glance. Constanze’s claims cannot be trusted, because her intention all along had been to maximize Mozart’s authorship in the Requiem. Stadler’s claims are not very clear, and since the word “Zettelchen” has various meanings, we cannot come to any conclusions about how much material was on those alleged scraps.

The only possible conclusion that can be drawn from all this evidence is that Mozart died before he could even begin drafting out the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. Because of this, Süssmayr had to write these sections later on, and his claim about his authorship of these sections cannot be refuted by the idea that Mozart had given him any detailed information through verbal communication or in writing.

Too Good for Süssmayr?

When all their other arguments fail, those who challenge Süssmayr’s exclusive authorship of the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei decided to use an opinion to support their argument. Whenever musicologists wish that the entire requiem was by Mozart, they always say that it is only possible that Mozart could have written it. This can be phrased in many ways, but it always comes down to the same thing: the Sanctus, the Benedictus, and the Agnus Dei are too good to have been by Süssmayr. In other words, they are so good that only Mozart could have written them.

There are many things wrong with this statement. Few musicologists have heard anything of Süssmayr’s music, and it is not right to assume that if he were any good, we’d be hearing much more of his music. Everyone has a different opinion of “good” and “bad” music; also, times change and so do styles of art and music. Besides, the quality of the music really has little to do with its authenticity.

If the musicologists want to compare Süssmayr’s music to Mozart’s, they need to have an extensive knowledge of both composers’ other works. This poses a problem: not much of Süssmayr’s music is known. Little of his music is published, and performances of his works are rare. Biographical information about him is scarce as well. There are some good sources that can be found, especially the research done by the Austrian musicologist Erich Duda, but these sources (which are generally not very accessible to the English-speaking world) are not enough to know Süssmayr’s music extensively well. If scholars have not heard much of Süssmayr’s music, then they had no right to say that he wasn’t good enough to have written the SanctusBenedictus, and Agnus Dei in the requiem.

Continuing down the same path, the fact that not much of Süssmayr’s music is known doesn’t necessarily mean that he wasn’t a good composer. There were many composers that were excellent, but obscure today. The opposite is also true. For example, if Mendelssohn hadn’t devoted so much time to preserving Johann Sebastian Bach’s musical legacy, Bach could have been forgotten. The same can even be said about Mozart. Had his widow, Constanze, not taken the initiative to invite Mozart’s friends and acquaintances to put Mozart’s musical estate in order, many of his works would be unknown today. In short, there is no reason to think that if Süssmayr was any good, we’d be hearing a lot of his music.

The “too good for Süssmayr” argument also loses its credibility when we consider the fact that everyone has a different opinion of “good” and “bad” music. Something that sounds good to one person may sound terrible to someone else. Gottfried Weber, who attacked the requiem’s authenticity in 1825, didn’t enjoy the music of the requiem, so he said Mozart could not possibly have contributed a substantial amount of music to the work. His opinions clouded his perception of the facts; as a matter of fact, Weber didn’t even realize that at first, he was criticizing only the Mozart sections, and praising the SanctusBenedictus, and Agnus Dei!

Times change, and so do styles of art, music, literature, and architecture, to name a few things. For instance, one may look at pictures of famous beauties in history and think they look “ordinary.” These things simply aren’t the same in every era. The same is with music. Süssmayr, as a Kapellmeister, had to listen to popular taste and compose in that style, while Mozart may have composed in a “timeless” fashion. This doesn’t mean that one was better than the other. Incidentally, Süssmayr seemed to have gone out of favor around 1800 because people started listening to other styles of music; it was the beginning of the romantic era. This change in the public’s taste doesn’t prove that objectively, he was not a good composer!

Lastly, the quality of the music in the requiem has nothing to do with the authenticity, or “who wrote what.” Considering the emotional circumstances after Mozart’s death, Süssmayr might have written music that was more creative than what he usually composed. But since his level of inventiveness has never been fully established, we can’t make sure of that either. Ironically, Süssmayr may have composed below his normal level of creativity in order to pass the work off as Mozart’s for the anonymous patron. The musicological world cannot know for certain until biographical information on Süssmayr becomes more well-known. So instead of using the quality of the music as a basis for determining who wrote the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei, scholars should instead analyze the music stylistically. However, doing this also requires knowledge of Süssmayr’s work in extenso – something that very few people have.

In conclusion, the statement “too good to Süssmayr” is full of empty evidence. Few people have heard any “pure” Süssmayr, and there is no reason to believe that if he were any good, we’d be hearing far more of his music today. Everyone has a different opinion on how good a piece of music is, and styles of art and music change throughout different eras. Finally, the quality of the music has nothing to do with authenticity.

This complicated situation reveals how difficult musicological study really is. Unlike subjects such as science, emotions and opinions cannot be absent from musical analysis. If art and music do not produce emotions in the observer or the listener, then the artist or composer has not succeeded in his purpose. Scholars cannot study music in a merely technical fashion; aesthetics must be considered as well. However, opinions should not be the only source of evidence for a particular claim; such an argument is completely empty.

Borrowing of Themes

Some scholars argue against Süssmayr’s authorship of the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei because motifs from sections Mozart definitely wrote also appear in these three sections. Mozart often used the technique of “thematic linkage” in multi-movement works. For example, in the Mass in C minor, the musicologist Robert Levin noticed that the beginning of the Domine Deus presents a theme from the Kyrie in double diminution.

The combination of notes possible in music is endless, but most tonal composers only use a small percentage of these possible combinations. However, the quotations and references between the different sections of the Requiem occur so often and appear to be deliberate, so “accidental” tune duplication is a theory that can be discarded. Thematic linkage, in fact, appears quite frequently in the Requiem. For example, the five-note “Requiem theme” (example 1) is used in many other sections of the Requiem, presented subtly as inversions or in other ways.

Example 1: Mozart, “Requiem” theme found in the Introit

The soprano solo “Te decet hymnus” in the Introit presents the “Requiem theme” as an inversion:

Example 2: Mozart, Requiem, Introit: Requiem aeternam, measures 21-22

The bass line in the beginning of the Dies irae also quotes the “Requiem theme” almost exactly:

Example 3: Mozart, Requiem, Sequence: Dies irae, measures 1-5

And even though Mozart only wrote the first eight measures of the Lacrimosa, there is already a quotation of the “Requiem theme” in the soprano part from the third beat of the fourth measure through the fifth:

Example 4: Mozart, Requiem, Sequence: Lacrimosa, measures 4-5

Likewise, thematic linkage is also present in the sections that Süssmayr wrote. For example, the theme of the Sanctus is borrowed from the Dies irae:

Example 5: Mozart, Requiem, Sequence: Dies irae, measures 1-4, and

Süssmayr’s completion of Mozart’s Requiem, Sanctus, measures 1-3

Many other examples can be found. The subject in the Osanna fugue in the Sanctus and Benedictus quotes the beginning of the Recordare, and also refers back to the Quam olim Abrahae fugue in the Offertory. Measures 19-22 and 50-52 of the Benedictus quote the “Et lux perpetua” part at the end of the Introit (measures 43-44).

Most significantly, the “Requiem theme” appears in the bass line of the Agnus Dei, and the Sanctus/Dies irae theme appears in the tenor line at the same time:

Example 6: Süssmayr’s completion of Mozart’s Requiem, Agnus Dei, measures 2-6

Many scholars believe this disproves Süssmayr’s claim about his authorship of the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei because not only is thematic linkage a common characteristic in Mozart’s multi-movement works, there is no evidence that Süssmayr used this technique as well. However, the scholars – who clearly lack knowledge of Süssmayr’s music in extenso – are wrong; thematic linkage also appears in Süssmayr’s Missa Solemnis in D (SmWV 106).

The Missa Solemnis has many other similarities as well. The beginnings of both Sanctus sections (measures 1-3 in the Requiem and measures 1-6 in the Missa Solemnis) are both in D major and nearly identical in thematic content in the voices:

Example 7: Süssmayr, Missa Solemnis, Sanctus, measures 1-6

Both Agnus Dei movements start with elaborate melodies in the first violin and are in minor keys. The harmonic progression at “mortuorum” in the Credo of the Missa Solemnis is similar to the progression of “sempiternam” in the Requiem Agnus Dei. In addition, the final five bars of the Osanna fugue are matched at “Dona nobis pacem” in the Agnus Dei of the Missa Solemnis.

Süssmayr makes use of the technique of thematic linkage in the Missa Solemnis. The simple theme – in fact, the three notes of the D major tonic chord – found in the beginning of the Kyrie later shows up in other sections. And this linkage certainly appears to be deliberate when one considers the theological meaning of the text.

The translation of “Kyrie eleison” is “Lord, have mercy.” In the context of Catholic theology, how did Christ grant mercy to the world? He did so by dying on a Cross and then rising from the dead three days later (“et resurrexit tertia die”). And now heaven and earth are full of the glory of His resurrection (“pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua”).

Not surprisingly, the thematic linkage occurs in these sections, the Kyrie, Et resurrexit, and Pleni sunt coeli, as well as in the Osanna fugue subject. The Osanna subject presents the theme as an inversion, perhaps to link it with the other sections (mentioned above) theologically. Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, He entered Jerusalem, where the crowds of people followed Him with palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

This subtle emphasis on certain parts of the text of the mass demonstrates that the thematic linkage used by Süssmayr was not merely a coincidence, but deliberate.

Example 8: Süssmayr, Missa Solemnis, Kyrie, measures 1-4

Example 9: Süssmayr, Missa Solemnis, Credo, measures 68-73 (Et resurrexit)

Example 10: Süssmayr, Missa Solemnis, Sanctus, measures 14-16 (Pleni sunt coeli)

Example 11: Süssmayr, Missa Solemnis, Sanctus, measures 29-34 (Osanna)



The evidence that exists to support the fact that Süssmayr wrote the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei (and lack of evidence to support the opposite) shows that Süssmayr’s claim about his authorship is on unshakable grounds. Misinterpretation of his letter to the Breitkopf & Härtel publishing company has led to a great deal of confusion, and Süssmayr himself has been unfairly maligned as well. However, when the evidence is evaluated and examined thoroughly, one can conclude that Süssmayr’s claim was indeed correct.

Many people assume that Süssmayr had detailed conversations and discussions with Mozart about the Requiem during Mozart’s last days. However, this is implausible given the facts that the accounts of the witnesses are often unclear and/or unreliable, Mozart’s last illness was quite brief, and his body gave off a foul odor that made it difficult for others to stay in the room with him for long periods of time. The idea that Mozart transmitted a lot of information about the Requiem to Süssmayr is simply a romantic myth that sounds so appealing that it appears to be ineradicable.

It is commonly believed that Mozart left sketches for the Requiem on “scraps of paper” that were later lost and/or destroyed, but there is no evidence to support this assertion. Constanze’s and Stadler’s accounts are frequently unreliable, and the use of the word “Zettlechen” is simply unclear and adds to the confusion. Besides, no evidence exists that Süssmayr actually recognized and made use of these drafts, if they existed at all. There is also no reason to assume that the Amen fugue sketch proves that there were others like it.

The “too good for Süssmayr” argument also make no sense. Most musicologists are not knowledgeable enough about Süssmayr’s music to stylistically analyze the Requiem. It is also not right to assume that if his music were any good, it would be more well-known in modern times. Most importantly, this assertion is simply an opinion that cannot be proved.

The fact that motifs in Mozart sections also appear in the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei do not challenge Süssmayr’s claim of authorship either. The fact that Mozart used thematic linkage and this technique appears in these sections, does not prove that Süssmayr’s claim is incorrect. It is also not right to assume that thematic linkage does not appear in Süssmayr’s other works; the Missa Solemnis proves that this assumption is simply wrong.

Until future evidence proves otherwise, Süssmayr’s claim is on unshakable grounds. Going forward, research on the Mozart-Süssmayr Requiem needs to take a radically different turn. In the past, many scholars have begun their research with a biased mindset, clearly intending to give Mozart the advantage from both sides. Not only do they want to maximize his contributions to the Requiem, they also want to make sure that all mistakes are blamed on Süssmayr. From now on, scholars and musicologists have to approach their research with an open, unbiased mindset and ensure that their own opinions do not cause them to misinterpret and misrepresent the facts.

It’s time to see the truth.

Musical Examples

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Offertory: Was Stadler Involved?

Immediately after Süssmayr had completed the requiem and before the delivery score was given to Count Walsegg, Constanze’s friend Abbé Maximilian Stadler also made a copy of the requiem. It exists in two copies, one in the Stadtund Universitätsbibliothek, Frankfurt am Main (Mus. Hs. 211) and one in the Austrian National Library (Cod. 19. 057). These manuscripts are so interwoven that one must have originally been part of another. Stadler had given a copy to the publisher Johann Anton André on 21 August 1828; it contained the Sequence as far as the end of Confutatis.

Stadler must have copied Mozart’s fragment not once, but two times; otherwise, he would not have given one copy away. However, it appears that he only have one copy of the Introit and Kyrie, explaining why he did not give these parts to André. Therefore, the copy in Vienna is more complete.

Stadler also made a separate copy of the Offertory. This copy was also given to André, and it ended up in the Austrian National Library in 1931. The attempts, in Stadler’s handwriting, to orchestrate the Offertory, have forced us to ask a question: Did Stadler copy some of Süssmayr’s orchestration, or did he first try to complete the section before handing it over to Süssmayr?

There is no evidence that Stadler had received the score soon after Eybler gave up his completion. However, it something of this sort did happen, then Stadler must have been on of the unidentified composers Constanze had turned to after Eybler quit, before contacting Süssmayr, who eventually took charge of the entire completion.

However, these copies by Stadler were most likely made after Süssmayr’s completion. If this is indeed what happened, then Stadler must have attempted to re-complete it after Süssmayr finished, not before.

So Constanze’s “unidentified composers” still remain unidentified even after two hundred years of musicological research.