“Mozart’s Requiem”

Saturday – April 14, 2018

Academic Panel: “Mozart’s Requiem”


10:00 a.m. – UO Collier House

“Robert Levin’s Fantasy on Themes by W. A. Mozart, October 29, 2012: Music Theory and Analysis in the Study of Historical Improvisation”

Gilad Rabinovitch

Improvised musics engage scholars of various methodologies (Nettl & Russell 1998, Lewis and Piekut 2016) as well as music theorists (Rink 1993, Brown 2010). Reconstructing pre-recording-age improvisation (Sanguinetti 2012, Guido 2017, van Tour 2015) is highly challenging. Robert Levin’s historical musicianship has drawn attention in empirical scholarship (Berkowitz 2010) but also merits more attention from music theory and analysis. Levin concluded a lecture with a fantasy on themes suggested by the audience (Levin 2012): “Deh vieni non tardar,” the introduction to the “Dissonance” Quartet, and K. 332 mvt. 1. While the fantasy genre invites musicking “beyond unity” (Kramer 1995) or rather beyond unity and disjunction, Gjerdingen’s (2007) schemata offer a historically-informed lens from which to evaluate the connections that Levin draws. Examples 1-3 and Chart 1 give a concrete glimpse of the music-analytical threads examined in this talk.

Levin’s work—perhaps representing the finest musicianship in the style of Mozart since Mozart—demonstrates how a musical culture can be reconstructed based on extant documents: scores, treatises, and written-out improvisations intended for students, amateurs, and less gifted musicians. Levin’s completion of Mozart’s Requiem and his improvisations exemplify how scholarship and practice unite to reconstruct historical cultural practices. Music analysis using Gjerdingen’s schemata highlights the debt of extraordinary musicians to the commonplace patterns of eighteenth-century music. This demystifies romantic-modernist cultural notions of the unique “masterwork” and allows us to appreciate soberly both the conventionality and uniqueness of Mozart’s musicianship as well as Levin’s.

Gilad Rabinovitch holds PhD degrees in music theory (2015) and composition (2013) from the Eastman School of music. His articles have appeared in or are forthcoming from the Journal of Music Theory and Music Theory Online. Recent talks include presentations at Musicking 2017 and EuroMAC 2017, as well as an invited talk on “Galant Schemata Meet World” to the World-Music Analysis Interest Group, SMT 2017.


“‘Not, please note, an orchestration’: Benjamin Britten’s Work on the Score of Mozart’s Requiem”

David A. Threasher

Britten conducted his only performance of Mozart’s Requiem at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1971. Rather than opt for the ‘traditional’ Süssmayr version, however, he prepared his own version, incorporating for the first time passages from Eybler’s aborted 1791 completion (foreshadowing Landon’s similar undertaking by almost thirty years) and, in one place – as he wrote tantalizingly in his program note – ‘attempted one [completion] of my own’. The broadcast of the concert, issued on CD in 2003, demonstrated Britten’s sympathy with the work but until now no study has been made of his conducting score. With characteristic modesty, Britten did not reveal where he had made his own incursion; nor did he draw attention to the myriad other emendations he made, which go far beyond a simple edition of the work. From his tempo, dynamic and articulation markings, we enter the practical mind of the performing musician; from his widespread redistribution and simplification of instrumental parts, we witness the inner ear of the master orchestrator.

This paper expands on my study of Britten’s score and aims to place his work in the context of the recent phenomenon of new completions. His intervention predates the subsequent ‘cottage industry’ of published editions, the first of which (by Franz Beyer) also appeared in 1971 but cannot have been known to Britten. Meanwhile, his own ‘attempt’ – at the opening of the Tuba mirum – startlingly foreshadows the work of later completers (including Duncan Druce as well as Beyer) who, equally, cannot have been privy to Britten’s version.

David Threasher is undertaking doctoral work into approaches to completions of Mozart’s Requiem at the Royal College of Music, London. He is a freelance journalist working for Gramophone, The Strad and Finnish Music Quarterly magazines and as an editor for the BBC Proms and White Label Productions. He was formerly on the staff of Nimbus Records and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.


“The Liturgical Mozart Requiem: Complexities of Performance Context and Critical Reception Between the Church and Concert Hall”

Erick Arenas

Among concerted settings of the Mass for the Dead, no work stands so popular, consequential, and fabled as the Requiem left unfinished by Mozart in 1791. Since it first captured the attention of the European musical community at the dawn of the nineteenth century, in its traditional Süßmayr version, the work has remained a cornerstone of the choral repertory and continual object of musicological deliberation. Questions concerning its genesis, completion, and authenticity have long dominated its critical literature, with work by Wolff, Black, and others making significant advances over recent decades. In addition, the rich subject of the Requiem’s historiography and mythological dimensions has recently received well-deserved attention in Keefe’s 2012 monograph. The extensive scholarly history represented by these important studies as well as the various alternative completions that were undertaken in the later twentieth century, however, tends to marginalize or obscure one element of the Requiem’s identity: its origin and conception as music for performance within a liturgical setting. Drawing on style analysis, liturgical history and documents, and primary reception sources, the present paper will address this multifaceted aspect of the Requiem and its bearings on the work’s intertwined performance and critical histories. It will elucidate and evaluate how the work fits within a Tridentine liturgical framework, and show how distinctive Austrian eighteenth-century ecclesiastical performance expectations shaped Mozart’s (and Süßmayr’s) musical strategies. Beyond discussing ways in which this liturgical basis complicates the Requiem’s reception history, the paper will consider how it continues to challenge even historically-sensitive approaches to its performance, in both secular and sacred venues.

Erick Arenas received his Ph.D. in musicology from Stanford University, where he completed a dissertation on Johann Michael Haydn and the orchestral mass in eighteenth-century Vienna and Salzburg. He completed his MA at the University of Oregon and B.Mus. at the University of the Pacific. He teaches courses in eighteenth and nineteenth century music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.


*All Musicking Conference Events are Free and Open to the Public
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