An air of mystery has surrounded Mozart’s Requiem for over two hundred years.
From the very beginning of its story, July 1791, there has always been something about the Requiem that has always been untold. An anonymous messenger who had been sent by the wealthy Count Franz von Walsegg commissioned a Mass for the Dead from Mozart. Walsegg’s wife, Anna, had died on February 14, 1791 at the age of twenty, and the distraught Count had not one, but two things done in her honor. First, he hired a sculptor to build a memorial for Anna, and then he decided to have a death mass composed for her.
Walsegg was an amateur musician who played the flute and the cello. Every Tuesday and Thursday, he hosted concerts in his home, the Stuppach Castle. The Count was notorious for commissioning works from famous composers and passing them off as his own, which was exactly what he planned to do with the requiem. However, things didn’t turn out the way he wanted them to.
When Mozart died on December 5, 1791 at the age of thirty-five, the requiem was still incomplete. His widow, Constanze, was in desperate need of money, so she asked several composers to complete the work. First, she approached Joseph Eybler, a friend of Mozart’s who had helped care for Mozart in his last days. Eybler orchestrated some of the sections in which Mozart left only the vocal parts. When he had to start composing fresh music, he realized he couldn’t risk being compared unfavorably to Mozart if anyone found out that he had completed the requiem; Eybler returned the score to Constanze. Mozart’s widow then approached Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who accepted and did the job.
Because the requiem was commissioned and completed in secret, there are many things that are unknown or unclear. Some things are misunderstood, because Constanze may have told stories to cover things up about the requiem. Will we ever know which parts of the requiem were written by whom? The general public obviously wasn’t sure, and when news leaked out about Süssmayr’s and Eybler’s involvement, scandal arose. Was the so-called “Mozart Requiem” actually by Mozart?