Opus Ultimum: The Story of the Mozart Requiem

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9780875863283: Opus Ultimum: The Story of the Mozart Requiem

The haunting beauty of Mozart's Requiem and the tragic circumstances surrounding its composition have made it a favorite among performers and listeners alike. But how much of it is actually Mozart's - and how do we know? Who wrote the missing pieces? What role did his wife, Constanze, play - and what about the man who secretly commissioned the work? Who tricked whom, and who had the last laugh in this grim tale? The author, an internationally recognized expert on Mozart, traces the complex web of events and intrigue that produced the Requiem and miraculously preserved it for posterity. Here is an accurate, precise, complete narrative of the dramatic story, minus the difficult terms and musicological obscurities; with a spoonful of sugar, the author introduces some of the technical problems, clues, and terminology used in reconstructing such histories.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Leeson's deep regard for Mozart enlivens this close, readable look ("the world's longest program note") at the Requiem, Mozart's final composition. How an incomplete set of "musical blueprints" became "one of humankind's greatest treasures" after the composer's untimely death is the problem with which the author, a former professional bass clarinetist and a Mozart expert, concerns himself. There have been plenty of mysteries—from the Requiem's commissioning, through its completion, to the machinations of Mozart's wife, Constanze, in the wake of his death—many solved in part by other scholars: as Leeson acknowledges, there is no shortage of Requiem literature. But this is the Requiem as a story. Leeson explains the three principal problems with the Requiem as Mozart left it—insufficient orchestration; a Lacrimosa barely begun; a composition too short for liturgical purposes—and shows how the composition was transformed after his death. He gives a thoughtful discussion of Franz Süssmayr's ability to rise to the occasion of finishing Mozart's work (after Joseph Eybler withdrew) and the public's desire to believe that only Mozart could compose such a piece. Leeson's writing is concise, persuasive and logical. Scholars will wish for citation in the form of notes, indexes and bibliographies, but general readers—at whom Leeson aims—won't miss them and will enjoy instead a compelling story. (Jan.)
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