One of the questions that has induced the most speculation is the mystery of why Constanze first asked Eybler to complete the requiem instead of Süssmayr. This question has also provoked very nasty rumors about…love affairs. Yes, love affairs, and it appears that this far-fetched topic has to do with the requiem!
Süssmayr should have been asked first; he was the logical candidate, and Constanze was aware of this. Süssmayr knew practically every note Mozart had written in 1791; he was always copying scores for Mozart in Vienna or away from home. Didn’t Mozart supposedly discuss the requiem with Süssmayr when he realized he was dying? Didn’t Süssmayr later write that he had often played and sung through the already-composed sections with Mozart? Wouldn’t Constanze have known this? Why did she ask Eybler?
Eybler was just as talented as Süssmayr, but he didn’t know Mozart’s work as well, and wasn’t as well-acquainted with him as Süssmayr was. A review in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung in 1801 said that having Süssmayr complete the requiem was a better idea than having any other composer, “even if good, may have been less familiar with Mozart’s ideas.” Surely Süssmayr would have known more what Mozart would have intended!
Thirty-six years after the completion of the requiem, Constanze wrote a letter to her friend Abbé Maximilian Stadler, saying she only offered the requiem to Eybler because “I was angry with Süssmayr at the time (I don’t remember why)…”
This statement added further fuel to rumors of a relationship between Süssmayr and Constanze. Constanze had also done other suspicious things that made people think of this far-fetched explanation for why she first asked Eybler to complete the requiem. She had continuously made Süssmayr’s name unreadable in Mozart’s letters (was she trying to cover something up?). Why was she “angry with Süssmayr?” Did she really not remember why she was so angry that she couldn’t let the only qualified person complete the requiem? This made people think she and Süssmayr had a “lovers’ quarrel.”
The rumors surrounding this include, but are not limited to, the following:
First, that Constanze’s son Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart was actually Süssmayr’s son. As evidence to support this, the child has Süssmayr’s first two names. But Franz Xaver wasn’t an uncommon name. Several people with this name were Niemetschek, the first Mozart biographer, Franz Xaver Gerl, the first Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, and Franz Xaver Huber, the librettist for Süssmayr’s opera Soliman der Zweite. Besides, the child could have been named in honor of Süssmayr’s friendship with Mozart. But nine months before the son’s birth, wasn’t Mozart away on a journey? Then the child was born seventeen days too early had Mozart been the biological father! Did Mozart ask Süssmayr to accompany Constanze to Baden because he wanted the real father to be with the expectant mother?
The second rumor is that after Mozart’s death, Constanze asked Süssmayr to marry her. If this is true, and Süssmayr rejected Constanze, this might be the real cause of her anger. However, this doesn’t support the rumor that the two had an affair during Mozart’s lifetime, as Constanze would have proposed this to Süssmayr after Mozart was dead.
Third, it has been suggested that Mozart may have encouraged the affair by sending Süssmayr and Constanze to Baden together. It is well-known that Mozart was known as a notorious womanizer, but this has clearly been exaggerated. There were already rumors that he was having an affair with his piano student Magdalena Hofdemel. To encourage the rumors, her husband, Franz Hofdemel, committed suicide and attacked her – and all this happened a while after Mozart’s death and funeral, around the time he was writing the requiem! One of Beethoven’s conversation books indicates that if Mozart did have an affair with Magdalena, he would have been glad to have Constanze go to Baden with Süssmayr or anyone else. If she had an affair, Mozart wouldn’t have cared.
Perhaps things were different. Constanze, even after her marriage to Mozart, was not averse to having a good time. Maybe Mozart had asked Süssmayr to go to Baden to keep an eye on Constanze. A letter from Mozart to Constanze shows that he felt she “complied to easily” with other men. Perhaps Constanze had found out that Süssmayr had told Mozart about her adventures with other men, and that was the real cause of her anger.
But perhaps it had nothing to do with love affairs at all! It was Süssmayr’s tradition to spend Christmas in Kremsmünster, and Constanze might have gone to Eybler because she had already asked Süssmayr and found out he was leaving and could not or would not change his plans. Or she might have found him already gone without notifying her, which could explain why she was annoyed with him. But no, there had to be something more than just that which made her so mad to not let him complete the requiem.
The assertion that Süssmayr went to Kremsmünster is also fraught with difficulties. Constanze approached Eybler on December 17 and received his agreement four days later. By calculation, Süssmayr would have left a few days before that date. An unconfirmed report (could not be found when searched for) says that Süssmayr and Pasterwitz arrived in Kremsmünster on the 17th. Traveling by coach in the Austrian winter from Vienna to Kremsmünster might have taken four days, therefore suggesting that Süssmayr left on the 13th. But that week, didn’t Süssmayr earn ten florins at the Burgtheater? How could he have hired a piano for the theater in the last week of 1791 if he wasn’t even in Vienna?
This is confusing enough, but even more confusing is why Constanze didn’t continue to enlist Süssmayr to help with her problems concerning the requiem. The lived in the same city but didn’t communicate. The only exception was when Constanze asked Härtel to ask Süssmayr about the requiem, considering him the last court of appeal to get out of the tangled mess she’d gotten into between Härtel and André. This still doesn’t show that Süssmayr and Constanze actually communicated directly with each other. Constanze said she had “tried, in writing” to contact Süssmayr to ask about the copy of the Sanctus he had given her earlier, but to no avail.
But this issue is far more innocent. It’s simple—didn’t Constanze tell lies and place down Süssmayr’s share of the requiem? Süssmayr knew that if she did this, problems would occur. He, all along, had tried to prevent his mistakes (those of a 25-year-old) from being blamed on Mozart. Therefore, by ascribing nearly the entire work to Mozart, in Süssmayr’s eyes Constanze was harming her late husband rather than helping him. That probably didn’t make him, Süssmayr, feel obligated to help her.
From almost every possible solution to a question concerning the requiem, a new one pops up. It is the same in this case. Why did Süssmayr complete the requiem, in spite of the problems it caused for him? Was he not afraid of comparisons between himself and Mozart, like Eybler had perhaps feared, therefore backing out? Besides, Süssmayr was aware that he was doing the work for free, that Constanze had no money to give him.
Since Constanze was in debt, a possibility can be considered. Considering what we know about Süssmayr’s personality, he was probably trying to help her. In any case, he certainly wasn’t doing it for personal gain or fame. If this is true, then Constanze’s rudeness towards him later on probably led to an alienation of their friendship. Constanze should have been eternally grateful to Süssmayr, but the way she acted—just for the sake of earning more money—would have infuriated him. Any reasonable person would feel that way under those circumstances.
It is not implausible Süssmayr had suspicions about Constanze’s intentions immediately after Mozart’s concerning what to do with the Requiem. And if he was aware of the mysterious facts surrounding the Requiem’s commission – which is very likely – he might have turned down Constanze’s offer. In keeping with what we know about his personality, it is not unlikely that he wanted to avoid participating on Constanze’s plan to deceive the commissioner about the Requiem’s authorship. Perhaps he accepted only reluctantly after Eybler gave up.
In any case, it is obvious that after Mozart’s death, the friendship between Süssmayr and Constanze was extremely strained. However, the assertion that they had an affair during Mozart’s lifetime is preposterous and nothing but slander, while the evidence points to other possibilities that are far more plausible.