Four years before composing his Requiem, Mozart wrote in a letter to his father: "Since death [...] is the final stage of our lives, I have become acquainted with this best and truest friend of man in recent years, so its image not only holds nothing frightening to me, but is rather something reassuring and consoling". However, in 1791, when death came knocking at his door, his sentiments seemed to have changed: perhaps this duality is what inspired the contrasting nature of his Requiem, oscillating between terrifying accents (as in the famous Dies irae) and tender, languishing melodies (like the sublime Lacrimosa). Separated from his mentor and friend Haydn, facing great financial difficulties, and afflicted with a fatal illness, Mozart died with his pen in his hand, as if breathing his last breath of life note by note into this final work. Sacred music par excellence (matched only by Verdi's Requiem), Mozart's Requiem seems to have one foot in Paradise, embracing "traces of transcendence" (Karl Barth) within itself.

Browse recordings of Requiem, K. 626

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Legends about Mozart's Requiem are abundant and have given rise to a vast bibliography. The most evocative anecdote speaks of a "gray messenger" who supposedly commissioned the composer to write a funeral mass. In a newspaper article of the time, J. F. Rochlitz writes that "the man with a noble air is an unusual being in close contact with this world, or he was even sent to announce its end to him." A looming end that inspires Mozart's Requiem, but not only that: the story reached Stendhal, who transcribed it in his biographical work, Lives of Haydn, Mozart, and Metastasio. Another popular rumor revolves around the Venetian composer Antonio Salieri: consumed by jealousy, he allegedly slowly poisoned his Austrian rival...This thesis (rather implausible, but supported by Mozart's widow) gained resounding echoes and inspired a verse drama by Pushkin, an opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a play by Peter Shaffer, and finally, the film Amadeus by Miloš Forman! On, legendary interpretations of Mozart's Requiem await you. Are you ready?