A book draft 1
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) born in Salzburg, Austria was known to be one of the greatest composers of all time during the classical period. Growing up, Mozart was indeed a child prodigy. In addition to playing the clavier at age three, he also composed all sorts of genres from then until the age of 12. These genres included writing compositions, symphonies, oratorios, and operas. As he got older, Mozart then composed many other works such as chamber music, concertos, vocal music and masses. His father, Leopoldo was a big contributing factor in Mozart’s music education life. With Mozart’s unique talent in mastering several instruments such as the violin, viola, harpsichord, piano, and organ, Leopoldo proceeded to take him and his sister on concert trips to Europe as well as main cities in Italy. As Mozart started to become well known from his outstanding performances, he was appointed by the Archbishop of Salzburg around the age of 13. With the small salary and unhealthy relationship between Mozart and the Archbishop, at age 25, Mozart soon left for Vienna in 1781 in hopes in finding a better patron. In Vienna, Mozart worked as a composer, teacher and freelance pianist. This is where Mozart met Constanze, in which they married on August 4, 1782. Not only did he meet his wife, but Mozart also had the opportunity to meet Haydn, in which became very close friends that he wrote and performed string quartets for and with
Haydn between 1782 and 1785. In 1783, Mozart became influenced by the work of George Frederic Handel and Johannes Sebastian Bach which contributed to compositions such as Die Zauberflote and Symphony no. 41. During the late 1780’s, Mozart began to struggle with debt and his own mental health. While working on The Magic Flute and La clemenza di Tito, Mozart was then later commissioned by a mystery man to compose a requiem. Despite his progressing illness, Mozart began composing the requiem around October 1791. Sadly on December 5, 1791, Mozart passed away with the cause of death still uncertain. With that, Mozart’s Requiem was completed until the first eight bars of the Lacrimosa. Later in 1792, one of his former students Frank Xaver Sussmayr was able to complete the Requiem. Mozart incorporated several characteristics that can help distinct each dramatic shift being presented, as well as using text painting to express the desired emotion with voices or instrumentation. Other important factors such as dynamic markings, tempo, key changes and rhythm all impacted on revealing the mood of each movement throughout the requiem. To discuss in further detail, we will now analyze Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” movement.
Before analyzing, I would like to mention a little history behind this specific movement. Besides Mozart’s ingenious classical movement, what makes this requiem much more interesting is the story behind it. Knowing Mozart’s ill condition during his time composing this piece, it is now a known fact that Mozart only composed the first 8 bars of Lacrimosa. While most of the song only had unclear sketches, his former student Franz Xaver Sussmayr was the person who finished the rest of the requiem. With that being said, it is unknown as to what stylistic choices Mozart would have made.
Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus.
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen.
Full of tears will be that day
When from the ashes shall arise
The guilty man to be judged
Therefore spare him, O god,
Merciful Lord Jesus,
Grant them eternal rest. Amen.
To get a better understanding of what the piece is about, I have provided the translation below.
This piece revolves around the idea of death, displaying the emotions one would feel during a tragedy as the piece was intended for.
To give an example of text painting, in the opening viola and violin sections, I imagine they are imitating the sounds of crying as if they are mourning. Being that this piece was written for an orchestra and chorus, Mozart’s divine use of text painting is greatly show throughout each vocal or instrumental line. Without even reading the translation, it is quite remarkable on how you can hear the “weeping” emotions just by listening to the ascending, descending passages and dramatic dynamic shifts. This introduction continues as the voices join in. Additionally, the rests and silences during the voice parts, you will also notice how they mimic the rhythm of a person sobbing. Perhaps most noticeable is the Picardy third that concludes the piece of a major chord
on the word “amen,” signifying a hope of redemption.
Now that you have an idea of how Mozart incorporated text painting, I’ve constructed a graph to point out where each section begins and ends. In the next pages, we will look deeper into how each theme gets transformed within section by section.
The first theme is presented as the A section in measures 4-8, ending on a half cadence. This musical idea will be throughout the movement in various ways. The same melodic structure will reappear using different text, the same ascending concept in measures 5-8 will reoccur, with contrary motion in voices as well as descending passages. Note: Listen for measures 5-8 and notice the eighth notes and rests in measure 5 and 6. The translation “When from the ashes shall arise,” makes sense in how the chorus is also ascending quietly. As we move on to measures 7-8, there is a noted crescendo, the continuation of the ascending scale and no rests. This section becomes more powerful as the voices rise together until they reach the half cadence.
In this section, there are a lot of notable changes of tonal centers. Beginning on measure 11, there is an E flat major chord followed by chromaticism, which ends on a F major chord on measure 19. Some parts of the exposition appear such as the rhythm, but all in all stands out as its own because of its independent key changes. In measures 9-10, the cries become quieter. Approaching measure 11, there is a noted Forte, displaying the distressed emotions once again. In measure 15 the mood shifts completely into a more mysterious feeling, as the sopranos and basses move in contrary motion. This sense of uncertainty in the voice parts soon resolves in measure 19 on a F major chord. At this point, we understand there is a moment of comfort between the grieving and sadness.
The main idea from the exposition returns, with slight differences. The first notable difference is the text. Instead of the first “lacrimosa dies illa,” we are now presented with “Dona eis requiem.” The voices then descend until reaching the final chord, in which becomes a D major chord. This Picardy third becomes the new home key in a way of resolving the tonal conflict from the development section. Take note how this glorious Picardy third happens on the final word, “Amen,” with the translation being “grant them eternal rest.” Suddenly the cries from the exposition and developmental sections are gone. Ending on this chord was a great way to show the end of mourning and the beginning of acceptance. Despite the darkness, it seems they have found the light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite the Lacrimosa being incomplete, Mozart left an undeniably beautiful piece of work that is still being performed by many today. The requiem contained a variety of themes and subjects in each movement, written with musical characteristics to create tension and overall dramatic sections that reveal the subject of death.
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