Conductor: Arvo Volmer
Soloists: Kristel Pärtna (soprano), Karis Trass (mezzo-soprano), Heldur Harry Põlda (tenor), Raiko Raalik (bass)
Chorus Master: Heli Jürgenson
Estonian National Opera Chorus and Orchestra
On October 31, Estonian National Opera will perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem on the great composer’s 265th anniversary and “Maurerische Traurermusik” (Masonic Funeral Music) in C minor, K 477.
Requiem was the last work of the young departed composer that was finished by his pupil Franz Süssmayr. The birth of this composition is surrounded by a legend, according to which a mysterious stranger appeared at Mozart’s door, commissioning the Requiem from the seriously ill composer. The mystic aura of the visitor was emphasised by his dark clothes, his habit of turning up unannounced and his wish to remain unknown. This shocked Mozart greatly and he was convinced that the man was an otherworldly ambassador and he was to compose a Requiem for his own death.
Another and more likely version states that the commission was made by an amateur musician Count Walsegg-Stupach, not unfamiliar to Mozart, as he had a habit of commissioning works from Viennese composers in order to pass them as his own. When the Count’s young wife died in February 1791, he wished to perform a requiem to commemorate her departure. At the same time, Mozart was putting finishing touches to his opera “The Magic Flute” and had another commission, too important to ignore, for an opera “La Clemenza di Tito” to celebrate the coronation in Prague of Emperor Leopold as King of Bohemia. Mustering his strength, Mozart finished both operas and focused fully on the Requiem. Nevertheless, as his health began failing him, he had to dictate his ideas to his assistant. Mozart’s friend, tenor Benedikt Schack later recalled the last evening of Mozart’s life “Mozart had the unfinished manuscript of the Requiem brought to him in bed and sang through the vocal parts with several friends. Mozart himself sang the alto part but got only as far as the “Lacrimosa”, at which point he broke into tears and put the score aside”. He died during that night of December 5, 1791.
Mozart joined the order of the freemasons at the lodge “Zur Wohltätigkeit” (Benefaction) in Vienna on December 14, 1784. In a little over a year he would achieve the status of master mason. A small number of works among Mozart’s late output was intended directly for use in Masonic lodges. The best known of Mozart’s Masonic compositions is the “Maurerische Trauermusik”, K. 477.
According to Mozart’s handwritten inventory of his music, the “Masonic Funeral Music” was written on the death of brothers Duke Georg August Mecklenburg and Count Franz Esterházy in November 1785. The instrumentation of the piece is truly masonic: it is scored for strings, two oboes, a clarinet, three basset horns, a contrabassoon and two horns, all instruments associated with freemasonry.
Their combined memorial service was given at the Lodge of Sorrows on November 17, 1785. Research suggests that an early version of the Maurerische Trauermusik was played at the induction of a new Mason at the lodge “Zur wahren Eintracht” on August 12, 1785.
The music, is dark and serious in the manner of Mozart’s Requiem. This may well reflect sentiments expressed by Mozart in his letters of the time, such as “Death, if we think about it soberly, is the true and ultimate purpose of our life. (The) image (of Death) holds nothing terrifying for me anymore; instead it holds much that is soothing and consoling!” The “Maurerische Trauermusik” is perceived as a stepping-stone between his Mass in C Minor and his Requiem.