Mozart’s Requiem coming to Shaughnessy

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The great composer's last work, incomplete at the time of his death, will be brought to life by Vancouver musicians tomorrow night at Shaughnessy United Church. Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

By SHAWN GILL

The Shaughnessy Heights United Church Choir will team up with two other local acts to bring to life a rarely performed version of Mozart’s Requiem, one of the most famous pieces in classical music.

Eight-five singers from the Shaughnessy Heights choir and the New Westminster based Amabilis Singers, will be accompanied by the West Coast Symphony.

“It’s one of the most fabulous pieces as an orchestral choral work. Both groups were ready to do it. I wanted to give them a really good challenge, and there’s not much that beats the Mozart Requiem in terms of a challenge,” said choir director Ramona Luengen.

Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor was commissioned by an Austrian count and left uncompleted at the time of the great composer’s death at 35 years old.

“So much of [the Requiem] was left incomplete when Mozart died,” said Luengen. “There are a lot of stories about who was involved with what. His widow asked several people to work on it to complete it.”

Mozart’s widow Costanze had his top pupil F. X. Freystadtler and Joseph Eybler, his close friend and respected composer, complete much of the rest of the work, by working from Mozart’s notes.

Finishing what remained of the Requiem after Freystadtler and Eybler’s contributions was difficult, as Mozart’s early demise had left large parts unplanned. Constanze contracted Franz Sussmayr, the copyist, to finish the Requiem. Sussmayr rewrote the entire score, erasing completely the contributions of Eybler.

“What we are accustomed to hearing is the work of [Sussmayr],” said Leungen.

The H.C. Robbins Landon edition, which restores Eybler’s contribution to the Requiem while maintaining Sussmayr’s work intact, is the version of the Requiem that will be played tomorrow night.

“In terms of musicological research, this is a little closer to what we think was performed around Mozart’s time,” said Leungen.

The Requiem was commissioned by count Franz von Walsegg to commemorate the anniversary of his wife’s death on Valentine’s Day 1791.

Tomorrow’s concert starts at 8 p.m. at Shaughnessy United Church at 1550 W. 33rd Avenue. Tickets are available at the door or by calling 604-433-6538. Adults pay $20. Free admission for children.

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