Jacob Gottfried Weber was a legal councillor and jurist who was also well-trained in musical matters; he had studied music theory, instrumentation, and composition. He was the owner of the controversial musical journal Cäcilia, and he frequently attacked Beethoven, Meyerbeer, and even Goethe. In 1825, Weber published an article, “On the Authenticity of Mozart’s Requiem,” declaring that the requiem published by Breitkopf & Härtel was not written by Mozart at all.
Friedrich Rochlitz, previously, had claimed, from information supplied by Constanze, that Mozart had completed the requiem. Then there was Ernst Ludwig Gerber, who said the patron was given an incomplete score. Then there was Süssmayr’s letter, saying that the greater part of the work was his. Weber had it worked it out to a solution in which there were two requiems: Mozart had written one, which was nearly complete, and Süssmayr wrote a second one. He said that Mozart’s widow must have turned sketches over to Süssmayr, who composed the requiem that we have today, the one published by Härtel. Weber concluded:
“…the Requiem was not authentic, becomes the sad but incontrovertible certainty that the work for the most part is Süssmayr’s (as he stated in his letter to the publishing company), and that not a single part of it is completely by Mozart. It is also certain that the genuine Requiem by Mozart up to now has not been discovered.”
Weber was so sure in his (wrong) assertions that he felt completely comfortable criticizing the requiem. He had complained there were “gurglings” in the Kyrie fugue, “overly sharp contrasts” in the Confutatis, an “undesirably long reprise of the Quam olim fugue in the Hostias,” etc. However, turning to the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei, he said the beginning of the Sanctus was “quite suitable for praising the Most High,” the the Benedictus was “so magnificent, so full of childlike piety, yet noble and great.” What was strange was the he was criticizing the sections Mozart had already drafted out (in which Süssmayr provided orchestration), and praising the sections we are almost one hundred percent sure were by Süssmayr!
Weber knew nothing of the original score. Süssmayr, the main figure, had died twenty-two years earlier. Constanze refused to say anything. Anyone who owned original portions kept them under lock and key and out of sight.
Abbé Maximilian Stadler had compared Constanze’s copy with Walsegg’s in 1800, and he had seen the original score. Furthermore, he had put Mozart’s musical estate in order as well and completed some of his incomplete works. He wrote an article called “Defense of the Authenticity of Mozart’s Requiem,” but since the issue went back a quarter of a century and he had memory lapses, some of his words were untrue as well:
“Gottfried Weber claims that the Requiem is so incomplete that one can hardly call it a Mozart work. Everyone, he says, seems to have forgotten this. By no means! It is his most perfect work, nearly completed before his death – a true, genuine Mozart creation. It was not “patched together” from sketches and notes on little pieces of paper, as Herr Weber opines. Mozart wrote it down himself, on Italian manuscript paper lined with twelve staves; it is a carefully written score. What Süssmayr said in his letter to the Leipzig music publisher is true: the three principal movements, the Requiem with Kyrie, the Dies Irae to the last verse, and the Domine Jesu are entirely Mozart’s creation in that he completed the four voice parts and the figured bass and indicated how the instruments were to proceed.
“The instrumental parts for the first movement, the Requiem with the fugue, and for the second, the Dies Irae to the Lacrimosa were largely supplied by Mozart. Süssmayr did little more than what most composers leave to their copyists. Süssmayr’s work really began with the Lacrimosa. But even there Mozart wrote down the violin parts himself then, when the voices enter he indicated clearly the manner in which the instruments were to proceed…. It would be wrong to think Süssmayr entered the instrumental parts in this score. He prepared his own score, very similar to Mozart’s, and transferred to it Mozart’s original, note for note. He then first entered the instrumental parts, following Mozart’s indications scrupulously, without adding a single note of his own. After that he composed the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. In this manner the work was completed.”
Much of what Stadler wrote was true, but he did seem to have a few memory lapses. His statement that the requiem was Mozart’s “most perfect work” and was “nearly completed before his death” seems suspicious. However, Stadler was so sure that he had won the argument that he couldn’t resist bringing up something else.
“Had he [Weber] been aware of the following, he would have begun his criticisms with the Requiem [Introit]. For Mozart not only took the Kyrie theme from a Handel oratorio, he also borrowed the Requiem theme from Handel’s Anthem for the Funeral of Queen Caroline, composed in the year 1737.
“Mozart had found a theme that seemed very suitable for a Requiem…. As some of the sketches he left behind show, he used this theme in his own manner and added the Kyrie, also based on Handel’s ideas. Having been commissioned to compose a requiem, he examined his earlier sketches, incorporated them in a new score and completed it all in a masterful manner.
“To compare Mozart’s Requiem with Handel’s anthem can be a highly pleasurable activity for connoisseurs. They would see that each master had treated the material in his own way; they would admire both of them, and be hard pressed to decide which the better version was.”
That was a serious mistake. Stadler had clearly proved that Weber lost the argument, but now Weber could pick a fight, saying that Mozart was too good to borrow themes from other composers and that he had not written the requiem for it to be known to the public as his composition. Weber then responded:
“Not only did he [Mozart] borrow the theme, which would be understandable if he would contrast it with a theme of his own invention, but he even borrowed the countertheme…. This will seem even stranger when we consider that Mozart took a passage set to the words “Halleluia, we will rejoice!” and used it for the Kyrie in a Mass for the Dead. It is even more astonishing that not only the fugue, but also the introduction to the entire work has been taken, quite clearly and unmistakably, from another work by the same master: from Handel’s Anthem for the Funeral of Queen Caroline. All Mozart did was to transpose the theme from G minor to D minor and use longer notes; otherwise the two are identical…. The claim that Mozart would have done this kind of borrowing is indeed hard to swallow, unless one had little faith in Mozart…. Thoses who truly venerate the great composer will find confirmation in Herr Stadler’s little essay in which he says that these adaptations of Handel themes are studies dating from Mozart’s youth, for Mozart was fond of thus improving his musical skills. His genius did not need any borrowings.”
Weber then quoted Stadler:
“‘How industrious the young Mozart had been – how he had committed to paper not only his own musical ideas, but also those of other masters who inspired him, so that at a later date he might develop these ideas in his own way. I [Stadler] noticed that he continually studied the great Handel, choosing him as his model for any substantial vocal composition.’”
Again, here was Weber taking things the wrong way again!
“One should not assume that Mozart intended such studies to be regarded as his own compositions – that he wanted them not to be considered as portions of a requiem which he submitted to the public (or to the generous patron, as Herr Stadler calls him) as his own work.”
But Stadler knew what to do, and he responded, backing up his claim with substantial evidence:
“How can anyone claim that Mozart did not devote great effort to this work? Did he not give it his very best? Was he not visited, shortly before his death, by highly regarded friends who are prepared to testify that they always found him working with enthusiasm?”
It was true; Mozart did enjoy working on the requiem. At first, he was hesitant to accept the commission because he was busy with other things. When he first started work on it, he referred to it as “that damned requiem” because he was annoyed about the amount of work that there was left to do. Later, when the grey messenger visited before the trip to Prague, Mozart told him that he was “more interested in it now… I am expanding it more than at first.” If Mozart had no desire to work on the requiem, would he even have bothered to work on it on his deathbed? From what we know about Mozart’s character and opinions, it is highly unlikely that he continued to work on the requiem just because of the promise of money, although that was potentially a motivating factor as well. But certainly not the ultimate goal of completing the requiem!
Weber finally did admit that he had lost the argument, but he was still skeptical. Perhaps, he thought, Stadler was right about the composition of the requiem and who wrote what—in the requiem known to us. Maybe there was another requiem floating around somewhere, undiscovered!
Of course, that was not true, but Stadler’s explanations did not clarify anything about how many requiems there were. From a modern musicological standpoint, it is difficult to see why Weber would have proposed this preposterous theory in the first place, although one has to give him credit for speaking out and speculating about Süssmayr’s contributions. And Stadler’s “clarification”, although not correct or accurate in every sense, seemed to end all the trouble.
But no, new trouble came from an unexpected source.
Johann Anton André was the publisher in Offenbach, and he was planning on publishing another edition of the requiem. Mozart’s and Süssmayr’s parts were to be identified by the letters M and S, and the same letters appeared in Constanze’s copy, off of which André’s edition was based. Stadler had entered the letters, but he claimed it was Georg Nikolaus Nissen, Constanze’s second husband, who had done it. Stadler had attributed the entire Hostias to Süssmayr, but when he inspected the original at Eybler’s, he realized it was partly by Mozart. Now he was afraid he had jumped to conclusions in other cases as well.
André, however, came up with another version of how the requiem came to be. He said the requiem was a composition Mozart had begun before 1784, set aside, and was completed by Süssmayr years later. His reasoning was that the theme of the Benedictus was nearly the same as a composition Mozart wrote in 1784. However, his theory is nearly as preposterous as Weber’s, and has no evidence to support it whatsoever.
None of them, Weber, Stadler, or André, had accurate information on the requiem. The requiem controversy of 1825-1827 produced no information. In regard to this, people were undoubtedly excited when news came from Salzburg that Constanze was preparing to publish a Mozart biography by Nissen. Any explanations would have to come from Mozart’s widow, or so they thought.
They were completely wrong.