Mozart’s Lacrimosa

Requiem Mass in D minor; Movement III – Sequentia; Lacrimosa Dies Illa.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
1971, Vienna, Austria.


Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem.


Requiem Mass is an unfinished piece by Mozart, one which he worked on up to the day of his death on December 5th, 1971. While only the introductory portion was completed by this date, Mozart had vaguely penned the frame for most all the song, one which is a daunting 55 minutes long when played from beginning to end. It was originally composed for 2 basset horns, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 drums, a full orchestra, and of course a mixed SATB choir along with soloists from each vocal section.

There is an enduring air of mystery to this song – no one is completely certain of how much Mozart himself actually penned. While we can confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that Mozart did compose and finish the opening movement – Requiem aetemam – as well as the movements Kyrie and Dies Irae – the first nine bars of Lacrimosa. The remainder of the song was penned by a number of different composers after Mozart’s death.

Disregarding the lyrics themselves, I’ve always found Mozart’s works to be quite remarkable. Lacrimosa doesn’t fail to stand up to the expectation, with somber chords breaking into more hopeful ones intermittently throughout the piece to relieve the mind of the overbearing hopelessness the simplistic piece offers. More so than this is the fact that the only surviving (or existing) bars originally composed by Mozart himself are the first eight. It hasn’t been finished past that point (as far as I’ve been able to find) and leaves an air of mystery about it. How would it continue if it had been completed? Would the minor chord structure have given way to a major one? Or would the somber atmosphere have bridged the gaps between the third movement and the fourth movement, Offertorium? The simplicity and mystery alone are enough to draw me to the piece, though the aesthetic structure and composition is quite remarkable enough to always leave me wanting more.



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