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MOZART'S REQUIEM:

An Internet Discussion on 16th April 1996 between
Douglas Yeo and Howard Weiner

Edited by Derrick Parker




This article originally appeared in the Autumn 1996 issue of The Trombonist, The Journal of The British Trombone Society.

1996 Derrick Parker and the British Trombone Society. The article may also be found online in the British Trombone Society Web Site.


Like most Internet "threads" (mail topics) on the "trombone list", described in the Spring '96 issue of "The Trombonist" by Edward Solomon, the following grew out of an almost chance remark in a long posting by Doug Yeo. There had been some discussion as to whether it was justified to put a low f-sharp up an octave in the bass trombone part of Frank's Dm Symphony to avoid a potentially hazardous leap. Though Doug was adamant that in the audition situation one had to "Play the ink" he argued that the feasibility of changes could be judged if one had a better idea of the composer's intentions. This one obtained by discussions with conductors and, perhaps more importantly, by studying scores and facsimiles and by studying the period in which the work was written. Doug has many facsimiles and finds this study fascinating and rewarding. It was during this posting that he mentioned that "we know conclusively that Mozart only wrote the first phrase of the tenor trombone solo in the Requiem, not the second half beginning on the long b-flat". From the replies it was clear that everyone did not know, so that sparked the discussion that follows.

Douglas Yeo (DY) - Most people know that Mozart didn't finish the Requiem, but that it was completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayer. With the publication of the Facsimile in 1913 (Requiem. Nachbildung der Originalhandschrift Cod. 17561 der K.K. Hofbibliothek in Wien in Lichtdruck herausgegeben und erlsutert von Alfred Schnerich. Vienna: Gesellschaft fur Graphische Industrie, 1913) it was possible for scholars to get a look at the manuscript and see what was really up. This edition is an excellent, colour facsimile that was the state of the art of facsimile making before WWI. The facsimile was published in two subsequent versions, a terrible reprint of the 1913 version made in 1990, and a very nice edition of 1990. The copy I have is the 1913 edition; in fact I have the copy that was owned by Alfred Schnerich, who was the one who wrote the preface to the first facsimile edition (it contains some of his pencilled corrections in the preface). The 1913 and second 1990 editions contain handwriting samples of Süssmayer, so it is relatively easy to see what he wrote. Also, someone (who knows?) circled in pencil on the Original ms (before the 1913 facsimile, so this appears on all editions) the bars, lines, and instrumentation Mozart did not write.

With all this background, now to the trombone solo. Mozart only wrote the solo that goes from bars 1 to 18. Süssmayer wrote the solo beginning in bar 24. Most "traditional" editions (like Kalmus and Peters) include everything Mozart and Süssmayer wrote and call it the "Requiem" but there are new versions coming out seemingly every year; the one recently recorded by the Boston Baroque (Telarc CD-80410) has a totally new completion by Robert Levin which sheds some new light on the piece.

Howard Weiner (HW) - Mozart probably intended for the trombone solo to go on even farther than Süssmayer's extension. The empty staff for the trombone continues for several more pages.

DY - I wonder if the score really implies that. In the autograph, Mozart laid out 6 staves for parts at the opening of the "Tuba Mirum" (from the top of the page moving down, for Violins 1, 2, viola, trombone solo, Basso solo [singer] and bass). Only the bottom three lines were actually notated by Mozart (there are two blank staves between the viola and trombone parts). After the trombone solo quits in bar 18, Mozart keeps the same stave format (he writes the tenor solo on the same line as the bass solo) until bar 45 (which is an additional 2 pages) where he adds staves for Canto (soprano) and Alto. At this point, Mozart is using 8 staves, with still two blank staves between the instrumental and vocal parts. It's hard to say if he meant to continue a dedicated "trombone" stave, but I'd like to hope so. Süssmayer's continuation of the solo is not particularly interesting although it, of course, feels "right" because that's all we've known. Since to do only what Mozart wrote is to reduce the Requiem to a torso (with some very incomplete orchestration as well), performances of the Mozart/Süssmayer version are very satisfactory and give us the piece we know as Mozart's Requiem.

A few comments on what Mozart actually wrote for trombones: All editions of the Requiem put the solo in the "Tuba Mirum" in the tenor trombone part, in fact the Eulenberg edition specifically says, "Trombone Tenore Solo." But Mozart actually only wrote "Trombone Solo;" the confidence for use of the tenor trombone player comes from the fact that it is in tenor clef.

HW - Indeed, Mozart wrote for alto trombone only in alto clef, tenor only in tenor clef, bass only in bass clef. As far as I know, Mozart never specified parts as "Trombone Alto", "Trombone Tenore" or "Trombone Basso", but rather "Trombone Imo", "Trombone IIdo" and "Trombone IIItio" (i.e. "Primo" "Secondo" and "Terzo").

DY - The slurs in bars 15 - 17 don't seem to make any musical sense, although they are in Mozart's hand. Part of the confusion may be this: Mozart wrote slurs very imprecisely, and in fact the slur that is usually notated covering all notes in bar 16 and the other one covering all the notes in bar 17 may really one big slur - bars 16 and 17 are on different pages and indicating that they are really one or really two is difficult to discern.

HW - Mozart did tend to be a bit sloppy in his notation. (Another case directly of concern to trombonists are two stray markings ("tro:" and "senz: trom:") above the soprano part in the Kyrie of the C-minor Mass (K427), which gave rise to the still widely-believed myth that Mozart intended the part to be played on soprano trombone!) In any case, I tend to think that the slurs in bars 15 - 17 do make sense. That is to say, I consider them to be phrasing marking rather than articulations. The melody here is, to say the least, unusual. Therefore, Mozart may have wanted to define the units within the phrase, to prevent, for example, the final a-flat in bar 16 from being detached from the rest of the bar and turned into a pick-up to the next bar. I've often heard it played this way and even my objection that the note is an a-flat and not a g-sharp didn't help. The pick-up like movement upwards does tempt one to "scoop" into the next bar. By the way, the figure in bar 16 has much in common with an early Baroque ornament: it starts with the main note, comes back to it in the middle and again at the end.

DY - I still have trouble with the slurs as usually notated, but your point about the a-flat versus g-sharp is an excellent one; I hadn't thought of that. Another important issue is whether the solo from bars 5 - 13 should be slurred at all or rather articulated (since Mozart writes slurs in bars 15 and 16, does that imply other bars are NOT slurred?).

HW - Until the beginning of the 19th century (or even later), articulations noted in the music were few and far between. Composers assumed that the performer understood the style of music he was performing, and thus knew how to apply the appropriate articulations. It was therefore not necessary to notate articulations or phrasings, except where the composer intended something not readily discernible from the context. The passage in bars15-17 is surely one such place. Bars 5-13 however offer no problems in this regard. This passage, as well as the one at bars 15-17 would be articulated using the typical Baroque patterns: legato two-note groups (eights and sixteenths), neither chopped up nor all slurred together. Listen to what the vocal soloists are doing and sing too. Bars 11- 13 could be a bit trumpet, fanfare-like. The opening, well, play it like the bass sings it.

DY - In actual practice, most conductors who have conducted this piece with the Boston Symphony recently have asked our second trombonist, Norman Bolter, to articulate the first 13 bars, omit the Süssmayer solo beginning at bar 24, and use a "historically informed" tempo that is quite a bit faster than the "normal" tempo we've been accustomed to.

HW - The "Tuba Mirum" is marked Andante ("very moderate walking speed") and alle breve.

DY - That can be a little frustrating when you've practiced the solo for decades at a nice relaxed tempo, with a beautiful legato, and a controlled vibrato on the long held d in bars 29 -32. "Hey, don't mess with my solo!" the trombonist may be thinking. This faster tempo seems to be the "latest" way of doing things but that doesn't necessarily mean it's "right" or even "better." Some conductors like to just be "different."

HW - I think that the nice, relaxed tempo we all learned was a bit too relaxed and ignorant of the alle breve marking. Both the Keith Brown and the Alfred Stoneburg excerpt books give the meter incorrectly as common time! It should definitely be in 2. By the way, in the opening of the Schubert C-Major symphony, we have the same situation: an alle breve Andante usually taken as an Adagio in 4. If this is taken in a moderate 2, the horns don't have to breathe in the middle of their opening phrase, and there is no need to make a big accelerando, where none is indicated, to get into the Allegro ma non troppo.

DY - Should the trombone solo be a legato counterpoint to the rather angular bass vocal solo? Or should they both be performed in a similar style?

HW - There is a bit of both in the part. I see no reason not to bring out the contrasts.

DY - When all is said and done, play it the way you feel it, but remember that the conductor rules the day. Süssmayer's continuation of the solo in bar 24 doesn't even appear in the manuscript; it was subsequently added in a different edition of the Requiem that Süssmayer wrote out completely in his own hand (possibly to pass the whole thing off as his own?). The truth be told, the only thing we have from Mozart in the entire "Tuba Mirum" are the vocal parts and the trombone solo, with some wind and string parts beginning to appear around bar 44. The only other indication we have that Mozart wanted trombones at all in the rest of the Requiem is the fact that in bar 7 of the "INTROITUS: Requiem aeternam," he writes (on the lines for the alto, tenor and bass choral parts) the four quarter notes for trombones that lead the way for the first entrance of the chorus. Because of that, Süssmayer took confidence to use trombone throughout "colle parte" that is along with the chorus, particularly because after the four trombone notes, Mozart clearly writes "tutti" at the entrance of the chorus, perhaps implying that all singers and trombones should play. Then again, maybe Mozart meant that it was "tutti" chorus as opposed to soloists. Because he also wrote "tutti" at the entrance of the sopranos, we discern either he wanted a soprano trombone (?!) or just meant for sopranos of the chorus to sing.

HW - Soprano Trombone? Very unlikely.

DY - It's hard to believe, though, that Mozart, had he lived to finish the piece, would have had three trombones in the piece only to play four notes and the solo in the "Tuba Mirum". We'll never know.

HW - Much of Mozart's sacred music calls for "colle parte" trombones. They are often not specified in the autograph scores, but included among the original orchestral material, which, at least in Salzburg, was copied by scribes closely associated with the Mozart family, familiar with Mozart's style, and most probably following his instructions. This material was also employed for performances in which Mozart himself was involved. For the Requiem, we don't have this additional source material, but there is surely no reason to doubt the appropriateness of Süssmayer's addition of "colle parte" trombones. Moreover, in Viennese sacred music of the 18th century, the use of at least 2 trombones (alto and tenor) was almost obligatory.

DY - I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding the colle parte trombone issue and of course don't think that Mozart really meant for a soprano trombone (hence my (?!) in the sentence). I was really trying to say that because the score is so incomplete in what Mozart actually wrote, that we really can only speculate, according to both Mozart's own past practice (such as his Mass) in related pieces as well as the period practice of other composers.

HW - The "Tuba Mirum" solo is in no way unique in the Viennese sacred music of the 18th century. For further information see: C. Robert Wigness, "The Soloistic Use of the Trombone in Eighteenth-Century Vienna", The Brass Press (1978), and Stewart Carter, "Trombone Obbligatos in Viennese Oratorios of the Baroque", Historic Brass Society Journal 2 (1990).

DY - Alas, the fun stuff we have, and sweat about, in the Confutatis (all those soft whole notes) are completely Süssmayer's. Don't let any of this stuff get in the way of enjoying the piece, though. I hope this discussion will give everyone a taste of the fun that is to be had by really digging into pieces which then give you a more informed view of the works we play. It sure makes my life more interesting, and has given me hours of pleasure as I try to understand, just a little bit more, what music is all about.

HW - I second this wholeheartedly!


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