Count Walsegg, the landowner at Stuppach Castle, was an eccentric figure. Like many nobles of his time, he had private musicians. Unlike the others, he went further. He held concerts on Tuesdays and Thursdays in his home for his many friends, and he himself appeared playing the flute or cello. Theatrical performances were held on Sundays. Everyone participated in these.
Walsegg wasn’t satisfied with simply playing music; he wanted to be known as a great composer. The fact that he couldn’t actually compose (although he had written a few trifles now and then) wasn’t going to stop him. Here, we see the pathetic side of him. He would secretly commission works from composers and perform them as his own!
Anton Herzog, a schoolteacher in Wiener Neustadt, played second violin at the Count’s regular quartet evenings. He knew of the Count’s deceptions, and he wrote:
“Since Count Walsegg did not like to play from printed music, he had the parts copied neatly, but without any indication of the composer. These score which he managed to obtain from secret suppliers he would copy himself and then have the parts extracted from them. We never did see an original score [!]. After we played a quartet we were supposed to guess its author. Usually our guess would be the count himself, for he had composed some trifles now and then. He then would smile, pleased that he had mystified us, or so he thought. But we laughed that he would think us so naïve. We were all young then and thought that we were merely providing some harmless fun for the count.”
Who knew that this kind of “harmless fun” would become arguably the world’s greatest musicological debate?
Count Walsegg’s wife, Anna, died on February 14, 1791, and her death affected him greatly. He commissioned a marble and granite statue to be made, and he commissioned a requiem mass from Mozart to perform every year on the anniversary of her death. As usual, he was planning to pass the work off as his own. However, his plans were foiled, since Mozart did not finish the requiem. As we know, Süssmayr finished the requiem. He and Constanze made copies—against the terms of agreement which Mozart had signed with Walsegg’s agent, under the rules that he could not make copies, perform the work in public, or publish it.
When he received the requiem, Walsegg made a copy in his own handwriting and then gave it to the copyist to copy the different parts. Instead of giving no indication of the composer, he went ahead and wrote “Requiem composto del Conte Walsegg” on the title page of his personal copy. With this, he had ruined himself.
Had he written no name, he could come to his defense. He could say that at concerts, he would prefer to have Anna’s soul be the center of attention, rather than Mozart’s great name. But since he was directly claiming authorship, anything he would do from that point on to protect his “property” could expose his deceit.
Walsegg was planning a performance, but Constanze had performed it first. On December 10, 1791, five days after Mozart’s death, the Introit and Kyrie, the only performable parts, were performed at a memorial service for Mozart. It is unlikely Walsegg knew of this, but he did find out about Constanze’s performance on January 2, 1793 at Jahn’s establishment. Walsegg was forced to delay his own concert.
In fact, Walsegg may have secretly attended Constanze’s performance! How else could he have found out that the requiem that was being performed was the same one as his?
Someone else who probably attended the concert was Süssmayr. The performance, or rather, Constanze’s claims, led to an alienation of the friendship between Süssmayr and Constanze. Constanze claimed Mozart had completed the requiem. Süssmayr had to watch helplessly as Constanze reaped material benefits from her copy, and this, no doubt, must have infuriated him. They lived in the same city but ceased communication. Later, in 1802, Constanze said she had written to Süssmayr to ask about the copy of the Sanctus he had given her, and she received no response.
Walsegg couldn’t really do anything either. He was forced to wait and delay his own performance. He only performed it twice in Anna’s memory, on December 14, 1793 and on February 14, 1794. After that, according to Herzog, he did nothing with it but arrange it for string quintet.
Now that it was likely that people had found out about Walsegg’s deceit, he tried to give his friends an explanation. He claimed to have studied with Mozart (he didn’t) and sent him the sections of the requiem, one by one, for his advice and approval. The last piece he submitted was the “just-completed Benedictus.” The Count got into even deeper water with this:
“After Mozart’s death, the Requiem score was found [supposedly, the count’s], from the beginning up to the Agnus Dei. Everyone believed it to be Mozart’s composition because of the striking similarity in the handwriting. The count then completed the Requiem by adding the Agnus Dei and what else was lacking.”
With that statement, Count Walsegg had fallen into his own trap. He remained silent during the next few years, but he felt he had to say something when he heard that the requiem had been published in Leipzig! He threatened to sue Constanze, but later he must have realized that he would draw attention to his own deceit if he brought the case to court. Constanze paid by giving him twenty-five copies of printed edition and probably paying him fifty ducats.
The last thing Walsegg did – perhaps to demonstrate his good will – was allow Constanze to compare her copy to his, which was done by Maximilian Stadler, Constanze’s friend, in 1800. Then he disappeared from the limelight for good. The requiem had not brought him any fame or honor, and instead, ruined his reputation and exposed his deception. Count Walsegg had been tricked by Constanze. It was hard to blame him for his deceit, since a far more blameworthy joke had been played on him. Count Walsegg – the deceiver – had been deceived.