Columbus Symphony Chorus This Weekend

The Columbus Symphony and Columbus Symphony Chorus(Photo: wosu.org)
The Columbus Symphony and Columbus Symphony Chorus(Photo: wosu.org)

It must be spring at last, since the Columbus Symphony Chorus is at the Ohio Theater this weekend to sing Mozart’s Requiem with the CSO. Ronald J. Jenkins conducts this terrific all volunteer chorus. They have given splendid performances of the most demanding repertoire for years: The Requiems of Verdi, Brahms and Dvorak. Masses by Haydn, Mozart and Schumann. Operas like Pagliacci and the upcoming Carmen. There’s seems to be nothing they can’t sing well.

This weekend Mozart’s Requiem is on the program with the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss.

Mozart’s final work, unfinished at his death, has been the subject of rumors both morbid and romantic. I’m not sure if a malevolent masked stranger appeared to Mozart, already feverish and ill, and demanded he accept a commission.

We know that Count Franz von Walsegg was seeking a memorial to his wife, who had just died at the age of 22. His worship sent messages from his Bohemian castle to bring back a Requiem from this Mozart fellow. It was the Count’s intention to pass off Mozart’s music as his own. Why not? Mozart was being paid well, wasn’t he?

We know that Constanze Mozart had to sue to recover even a part of her dead husband’s fee, and that composing this Requiem was a race against death which Mozart lost. We are told he was working feverishly from his deathbed and stopped only a few hours before he died in the early morning hours of December 5, 1791.

he Mozart family needed this fee. There was barely any money left to bury the greatest composer since J.S. Bach. There was a performance of the Requiem in St. Stephen’ cathedral in Vienna in 1792. Constanze intended this as a backer’s audition to attract future performances.

Mozart completed the Requiem, the Kyrie and the first half of the Introit. The rest survived in sketches. Nothing further was orchestrated. Mozart’s Pupil Franz Xavier Sussmayr finished he work, connecting his master’s dots as best as he could at Constanze’s urgent request. It would never due to sue for a fee for a work two thirds unfinished. What we hear throughout sounds like Mozart.

The Hostias is Mozart-Sussmayr:

Composers who finish other’s work are rarely thanked for their pains. Sussmayr earned his footnote in history for his completion of Mozart’s Requiem. Sometimes the work was performed only as Mozart left it a 20 minute show. Other editions have proliferated, most recently by Robert Levin.  

“The traditional version has been retained insofar as it agrees with idiomatic Mozart practice,” Levin writes. “The most transparent instrumentation of the new completion was inspired by Mozart’s other church music.”

Alrighty then. Mozart left two of his great works unfinished, the c minor mass and the Requiem. Both are called magnificent torsos. You can argue the body parts but not the magnificence. In recent years performance practice has called for a 20-30 voice chorus and an orchestra short on vibrato. I’m salivating over the beefy performance filled with sound and glory awaiting us in the Ohio Theater this weekend.

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