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DPAC Revisits Requiem

Meghan Thomassen | Thursday, September 12, 2013

It’s Friday the 13th, and tomorrow the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC) will host one of the most historically morbid pieces of music ever composed: Mozart’s “Requiem.”

Viennese composer and musical prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died Dec. 5, 1791, before he could finish the Requiem Mass in D minor. Mozart was only 35 years old when he succumbed to a painful but short death that involved vomiting and swelling. Mozart died convinced he had been poisoned, and he left enormous debts for his bereaved wife to handle.

Why he wrote this requiem in the first place is highly contested. Popularized by the film “Amadeus”(1984), confusion still surrounds Mozart’s intentions for this seven-part composition and the identity of its commissioner.

It is widely accepted that Count Franz von Walsegg anonymously paid for Mozart’s work for the Feb. 14 anniversary of his wife’s death, but another composer, Mozart’s pupil, Franz Xavier Sussmayr, had a hand in completing the manuscript for performances after Mozart’s death.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “requiem” as “a Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead.” Mozart’s intense and complex musical soul seems to live on in the Requiem.

The music starts with a slow, somber vamp that escalates into a commanding Kyrie sequence. The drums resound with the bassoons in a bittersweet dirge. The dramatic crescendos and decrescendos make the listeners physically feel the momentous loss. Whose death exactly the Requiem is mourning, however, is unclear.

In his final days, Mozart was rumored to have uttered these augurous words:

“I fear I am writing a Requiem for myself.”

The singers for the DPAC performance include soprano Jessica McCormack, mezzo-soprano Julian Bentley, tenor Nicholas Fitzer and baritone Stephen Lancaster.

The performance starts Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Decio Mainstage Theater. The event is free but ticketed.