Virtual Music Hour

  Mozart Requiem Archive

  Introducing Mozart Requiem in D minor, K. 626

  Listen to the Music

This week's Virtual Music Hour is dedicated to all individuals that are in need of comfort.


Welcome to Virtual Music Hour. In preparation for your listening experience, Assistant Principal Violist Catherine Beeson has made guides with activities that can be enjoyed alone, with your quarantine buddies at home and online, or with your students. These activities can be mixed, matched, and altered to create an experience that’s right for you, or as inspiration to create your own. Get as creative as you’d like. Share it with us on social media! If you like seeing and hearing the Colorado Symphony musicians online, imagine how uplifting it would be for us to see and hear you too!

Mozart’s Requiem has been the subject of speculation, mystery, and study for many, many years. It is a powerful work of art that especially resonates in our time.

  Mozart began composing the Requiem during the final months of his life, dying before he completed it. He was 35 years old and was at the very pinnacle of his compositional abilities.

  In 1791, Mozart composed portions or all of the Introit, Kyrie, Sequence, and Offertory. A version completed in 1792 by Franz Sussmayr included the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei which he first claimed to have constructed from Mozart’s sketches and later claimed to have written entirely himself. There are other versions constructed more recently, but the Sussmayr version is the most frequently performed.

  The Requiem is about 50 minutes in length, and is constructed in eight sections of music, two of which have subsections, for a total of 14 sections of music each with its own character and role.

  There are countless uses of portions of the Requiem in film and television soundtracks. Particularly noteworthy (punny!) is its inclusion in a “Simpsons” episode when we learn the back story to Homer’s chess prowess.

  The Requiem score calls for soprano, contralto, tenor, and bass vocal soloists, a mixed adult chorus, and an orchestra made up of 2 basset horns (older sibling of the clarinet), 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, organ, and the usual string section of violins, violas, cellos and basses.

Here is a listening map that can guide you through the piece. Read it in advance or while you’re listening!


The first music we hear is bassoon and clarinet solos over a strings accompaniment that suggests solemn marching. Shortly thereafter we hear strong trombones (associated with darkness and death at the time) introduce the chorus as the orchestra becomes more active and full.

There are many instances throughout history of works of art being started by one person and finished by another. Mozart himself helped out his ill composer friend Michael Haydn who was late for a deadline by finishing a set of violin and viola duets and letting Haydn claim them. Mozart died during the time he was composing the Requiem, but he left some sketches and had about half of it done. At Mozart’s wife Constanze’s request, an initial attempt to complete the work was made by Joseph von Eybler but he ended up backing out. Franz Süssmayr stepped up to the plate and, using some of Eybler’s work, his own new compositions, and Mozart’s original material, he finished it in 1792. More recently, a number of other composers and historians have studied Mozart’s original work and made their own reconstructions. Consider what it might feel like to take on that kind of responsibility.

  How would you approach finishing someone else’s work?

  How might it feel different if you knew them personally rather than learned about them through their historical work?

  Would you be able to successfully put aside your own ideas or style to keep their work as true to them as possible? In what ways?

Mozart needed to come up with music that would support the text of the Requiem Mass. Let’s explore this process a little.

Think about two ways to convey the sentence “The cow jumped over the moon” through music. First in a literal way. [cow sounds, jumping sounds, etc.] Then, in a more abstract way. [music describing the cow’s feelings, the general scene altogether, etc.] Be as detailed as possible about your musical choices.

  Can you and your quarantine buddies get an equal sense of the sentence in both of these ways?

  How might it change the musical representation of the sentence to perform both ways at once?

Mozart used both these techniques to create a strong text-music relationship in his Requiem. Dive a little deeper and examine the differences in the language of poetry and a set of instructions.

  Which of these is the most literal? The most abstract? In what ways?

  How would it be different to set these words to music?

  What kinds of sounds might best represent a list of rules?

  What musical choices would you make to represent the words ‘green’ or ‘powerful’? Be as detailed and creative in your choices as possible!

Try creating something!

  1. This works best with two or more people, but you can experiment on your own too. Split two groups.
  2. Have one group focus on a stanza from a familiar poem, and the other on a brief set of instructions [for instance, how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich].
  3. Now have each group make a song with musical accompaniment using the words they are focused on.
  4.   What musical choices would they make to support the words and their context? [use the rhythm of the words in the music; important words use a special instrument or combination; etc.]

  5. Try creating a different song which brings out a hidden or different meaning in the words. For instance, make the instructions into a humorous or surprising song by only changing the musical choices.
  6.   Which version is most successful? Why?

Now that you’ve had a chance to consider, discuss, and get active around Mozart’s Requiem it’s time to listen to the Colorado Symphony performance.

The text is pretty serious.

  What do you hear in the music that Mozart used to support this gravity?

  There are less serious moments in the piece. What musical choices do you hear that lighten things up?

As always, the way you choose to listen to music is entirely up to you. Music offers an opportunity to consider the power of the arts to illuminate the human condition and the times in which we live. The Requiem offers a particularly timely opportunity to reflect on life and death, and the universal struggle between lightness and darkness in each of us. We are committed to providing opportunities for this reflection at the same time that we present opportunities for enjoying awe inspiring beauty, joy, and respite.



Please share your musical adventure with us through social media! We would love to hear about it or see any of your activities, journaling, or creations!


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