Commonwealth Chorale seeks singers for Requiem

Published 11:53 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

Interested singers are invited to join the Commonwealth Chorale in rehearsal for spring performances of Mozart’s Requiem. Rehearsals begin Feb. 7 from 7-10 p.m. at Farmville Presbyterian Church, 200 W. Third St.

All are welcome; no auditions are required. Performances will be March 26, 3 p.m. at Farmville United Methodist Church, and April 2, 3 p.m. at College Church, Hampden Sydney.

Young singers aged 12 and older are also invited to rehearse with the adults. For further information, call (434) 392-7545 or visit the Chorale’s website at: www.commonwealthchorale.org.

“Perhaps no other musical work is as shrouded in mystery as this last of Mozart’s compositions,” event organizers said in a press release. “The combination of the sublime majesty of the Requiem Mass on which it is based, the emotional power of the music, and the strange, even chilling, circumstances of the work’s creation, has sparked enduring myths that persist to this day.”

“The legends were perpetuated and enhanced by the 1984 Milos Forman movie based on Peter Shaffer’s play, Amadeus, in which a manipulative Antonio Salieri, driven by corrosive envy of Mozart’s genius, appears as a frightening supernatural emissary to commission a requiem in hopes of driving an ill, desperate and penniless Mozart to his death from overwork. This tale is almost entirely fantasy, but only slightly more compelling than the actual facts.

“In 1791, Mozart’s career was indeed in decline. He was still composing, but surviving on trivial work such as music for dances and court balls rather than large commissions. He and his wife, Constanze, were always in need of money,” organizers said.

“In July of that year, something bizarre happened: Mozart received a surprise visit from a stranger who ordered a requiem mass and insisted on anonymity. It is now believed the envoy was from Count Franz von Walsegg, an Austrian nobleman and amateur musician, whose motives for wanting the piece remain unclear. Mozart began work on Requiem in the summer of 1791. Unlike in the film, Mozart was well enough to complete work on two of his operas, and travel. However, about the end of October while working on Requiem, he began to feel ill and experienced morbid thoughts about being poisoned.”

“I know I must die … someone has given me acqua toffana and has calculated the precise time of my death — for which they have ordered a Requiem, it is for myself that I am writing this,” Mozart said.

“Constanze, fearing for his health, persuaded him to put the work aside. A few weeks later, although terminally ill with what has since been diagnosed as rheumatic fever, he resumed work. On the evening of Dec. 4, with several friends at his bedside, Mozart sang parts of the incomplete score to them. Reportedly, upon attempting to sing a few bars of the heartbreakingly poignant ‘Lacrimosa dies illa’ (Day of Weeping), he wept violently. He died shortly thereafter, just after midnight, on Dec. 5, 1791, at age 35. He was buried in an unmarked common grave that has never been found,” organizers said.

The incomplete Requiem was subsequently finished by Franz Sussmayr, using Mozart’s sketches and notes for the unfinished sections. Despite the fact that the score is not entirely by Mozart’s hand, the deeply emotional and musically complex work has attained iconic status over the centuries.

“It is widely used at state funerals and solemn memorials, including the worldwide memorial concert after Sep. 11, 2001, in which the Commonwealth Chorale participated. The Chorale is pleased to bring this great choral masterpiece to our community once again as its Spring Concert offering.”