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Mozart’s Requiem

with the NAC Orchestra

2022-11-09 20:00 2022-11-10 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Mozart’s Requiem

In-person event

Pathos, beauty, and genius: Mozart’s music for the human voice is beyond compare, and this performance offers the opportunity to be immersed completely in the great composer’s brilliance. Under the baton of distinguished Quebec conductor and NACO creative partner Bernard Labadie, one of the world’s leading experts in Baroque and classical repertoire, the NAC Orchestra presents an evening with Mozart that includes the great composer’s Requiem. Mozart’s Requiem was...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
November 9 - 10, 2022

≈ 1h45 · With intermission

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Last updated: November 9, 2022


MOZART Symphony No. 39, K. 543
MOZART Requiem, K. 626

Program Notes

Tonight’s NACO program pairs two distinguished works by Mozart—Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, which became his third-last in that genre, and his Requiem, which he was working on but had left incomplete at his death in 1791. In presenting them together in this concert, these powerful pieces clearly show the composer’s inventiveness and deft skill in writing for the orchestral medium, and why he was considered, during his lifetime and afterwards, to be the late 18th century’s preeminent master of orchestration. They also raise tantalizing questions about what Mozart might have created if he had lived longer than his 35 years.



Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543

I. Adagio – Allegro
II. Andante con moto
III. Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio – Menuetto
IV. Finale: Allegro

Mozart composed his Symphony No. 39 in the summer of 1788, during which he also completed the “great” G minor Symphony (No. 40), and the “Jupiter” Symphony (No. 41). There is little to no record of their first performances, but it’s likely that they appeared in concerts in Vienna in the autumn of that year. (Mozart was a pragmatic composer and was unlikely to have written symphonies, which was then a genre of increasing prestige, without the prospect of earning money or recognition.) Perhaps the lack of performance information was connected to the circumstances of the time, that is, of Austria being at war with Turkey; with many aristocratic families having left Vienna as a result, there were limited resources and opportunities to put on large orchestral concerts.

Symphony No. 39 has elegant grandeur, lively dialogue, and dramatic brilliance—qualities that late 18th and early 19th century music critics and theorists revered in Mozart’s orchestral writing. Its “sound world” is characterized by a certain warmth and mellowness, owing to the presence of clarinets. (Mozart had long loved the sound and expressive qualities of the instrument, and perhaps to further focus attention on their tone colour, he does not include oboes in this symphony.) A slow introduction opens the first movement in a majestic manner; for a moment, it takes a darker turn and later, ends mysteriously, but then the main theme of the movement proper appears, all sunny and relaxed grace in the violins. A vigorous orchestral episode follows, transitioning into a gentle second theme, led by the clarinets. As the movement progresses, it’s the energetic element that is developed and prevails in the end.

The Andante second movement features an elegant theme of dotted rhythms, initially presented by the strings. Its presentation, varied upon subsequent returns, alternates with two contrasting episodes of stormy, turbulent character—the second of these more intense than the first, starting at a higher register in the violins and extended through a stirring progression of harmonies. Throughout, there are striking timbral juxtapositions of strings and woodwinds as well as conversational exchanges between them.

The ensuing Minuet is a robust and stately dance, while in the Trio, one clarinet takes centre stage with a charming melody, while the other burbles underneath. Built on a single lively theme, the final Allegro is full of drive and wit. Strings and woodwinds engage in a dramatic dialogue of equals that shapes the structure of the movement. There are plenty of surprises as well—abrupt stops, sudden changes in key and dynamics, even a mysterious chorale featuring clarinets and bassoon—that wrap up this exquisite symphony with flair and excitement.


Requiem in D minor, K. 626 (completion by Robert D. Levin)

Few works in the Western classical music repertory captivate and fascinate as much as Mozart’s Requiem. It was left unfinished upon the composer's death on December 5, 1791, and since then, music scholars, performers, composers, and audiences have been drawn to the surrounding mystique of its creation, to consider “what would Mozart have done” if he had survived it, and of course, to the power of the music itself, which has undergone various completions, at least six in the past 50 years. Tonight, you’re hearing a widely performed modern completion from 1994 by American composer, musicologist, and pianist Robert D. Levin.

Music scholars, such as Simon O’Keefe in his incisive study of Mozart’s Requiem in context, have pointed out the difficulty, even impossibility, nowadays to separate the facts from the layers of fiction and quasi-fiction that have accrued over time concerning the Requiem “legend”. What we do know for a fact is that it was commissioned anonymously by Franz, Count von Walsegg (1763–1827), likely in the summer of 1791, in memory of his wife who had died earlier that year on February 14, at age 20. Either Walsegg’s lawyer, Dr. Johann Sortschan, or his business manager, Franz Anton Leitgeb, had facilitated the transaction. Mozart likely worked on the Requiem between September and November, though sporadically, for he was busy with the premieres and performances of La clemenza di Tito and Die Zauberflöte, other compositional projects, and visits to his family in Baden. It’s unclear whether he continued to work on it after November 20, when he became bedridden with his final illness.

Mozart’s Requiem follows the standard liturgical format of Introit, Kyrie, a Sequence with six sections, the Offertorium, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and Communio. At his death, Mozart had finished the full score for the Introit, and had written the vocal parts, continuo, and several orchestral passages for the Kyrie, the Sequence (up to the first eight bars of the Lacrimosa), and the Offertorium. Keen to see the commission fulfilled, Mozart’s widow Constanze enlisted the services of, first, Joseph Eybler (1765–1846), then Franz Xaver Süssmayr (1766–1803), both Austrian composers and associates of her husband. When the completed score was given to Walsegg, the manuscript included the Introit and Kyrie by Mozart, instrumental additions to the Kyrie in an unknown hand, the Sequence and Offertorium in Süssmayr’s hand but integrating Mozart’s work and part of Eybler’s orchestration, and the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei by Süssmayr, with part of Mozart’s Introit and Kyrie reprised for the Communio. It received several early performances, including one as a benefit for Constanze and her children, before it was published in 1800.

In his modern version, Levin sought to maintain as much as possible the autograph score with Mozart’s work and Süssmayr’s completion, while improving on the latter; as he’s noted, “The goal was to revise not as much, but as little as possible, attempting in the revision to observe character, texture, voice leading, continuity and structure of Mozart’s music. The traditional version has been retained insofar as it agrees with idiomatic Mozartean practice.” Among Levin’s own contributions is an elaborate fugue on the final “Amen” of the Lacrimosa, thus providing a climatic end to the Sequence. (It’s not certain whether Mozart would have written a fugue there but perhaps Levin took a chance based on the 1962 discovery of a sketch by Mozart for an “Amen” fugue.) He also lengthened Süssmayr’s fugue on “Osanna” to give the Benedictus a grand, triumphant ending.

An effective completion of Mozart’s Requiem should uphold what is already evidently compelling about it—that is, the composer’s sensitive and judicious use of the orchestra’s instruments and their distinct timbres to create sounds for dramatic effect. Throughout the work, the orchestra serves not only to support the choir and vocal soloists but is an active contributor to the content and meaning of the text being sung. At times, the orchestra enhances through text painting, but on other occasions, it destabilizes meaning through unexpected contrasts in dynamic levels, harmonic modulations, melodic character, and rhythmic energy. Although drawing inspiration from earlier requiem settings, Mozart’s Requiem thus seems to have a special intensity owing to the dialectical relationship between the voices and the orchestra, resulting, as O’Keefe has observed, in its somewhat unsettling quality overall. It perhaps raises more questions than offers answers, about life, death, and the afterlife. And in contemplating the state of this Requiem’s (in)completeness, we are forced to face this ambiguity head on—therein lies the remarkable power of the piece and its “legend”.


Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD


  • bernard-labadie-credit-dario-acosta
    Conductor Bernard Labadie
  • soprano Jane Archibald
  • mezzo-soprano Alex Hetherington
  • tenor Andrew Haji
  • bass-baritone Philippe Sly
  • la-chapelle-de-queybec-photo-michel-robitaille
    choir La Chapelle de Québec
  • Featuring NAC Orchestra

NAC Orchestra

  • Conductor: Bernard Labadie
  • Soloists: Jane Archibald, soprano; Alex Hetherington, mezzo-soprano; Andrew Haji, tenor; Philippe Sly, baritone; La Chapelle de Québec
  • First Violins
    Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
    Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
    Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
    Jeremy Mastrangelo
    Marjolaine Lambert
    Emily Westell
    Manuela Milani
    Emily Kruspe
    *Erica Miller
    *Martine Dubé
  • Second violins
    Mintje van Lier (principal)
    Winston Webber (assistant principal)
    Leah Roseman
    Carissa Klopoushak
    Frédéric Moisan
    Zhengdong Liang
    Karoly Sziladi
    Mark Friedman
    **Edvard Skerjanc
    *Oleg Chelpanov
    *Renée London
    *Heather Schnarr
  • Violas
    Jethro Marks (principal)
    David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
    David Marks (associate principa)
    David Thies-Thompson
    Paul Casey
    *Alisa Klebanov
  • Cellos
    Rachel Mercer (principal)
    Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
    Timothy McCoy
    Leah Wyber
    Marc-André Riberdy
    *Karen Kang
  • Double basses
    Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
    Vincent Gendron
    Marjolaine Fournier
    **Hilda Cowie
    *Paul Mach
  • Flutes
    Joanna G'froerer (principal)
    Stephanie Morin
  • Oboes
    Charles Hamann (principal)
    Anna Petersen
  • English Horn
    Anna Petersen
  • Clarinets
    Kimball Sykes (principal)
    Sean Rice
  • Bassoons
    Darren Hicks (principal)
    Vincent Parizeau
  • Horns
    Lawrence Vine (principal)
    Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
    Elizabeth Simpson
    Lauren Anker
    Louis-Pierre Bergeron
  • Trumpets
    Karen Donnelly (principal)
    Steven van Gulik
  • Trombones
    **Donald Renshaw (principal)
    *Steve Dyer (guest principal)
    **Colin Traquair
    *Charles Benaroya
  • Bass Trombone
    *David Pell
  • Tubas
    Chris Lee (principal)
  • Timpani
    *Michael Kemp (guest principal)
  • Percussion
    Jonathan Wade
  • Organ
    * Thomas Annand
  • Principal Librarian
    Nancy Elbeck
  • Assistant Librarian
    Corey Rempel
  • Personnel Manager
    Meiko Lydall
  • Assistant Personnel Manager
    Laurie Shannon

*Additional musicians
**On Leave

La Chapelle de Québec, choir

  • Soprano
    Anne-Marie Beaudette
    Odéi Bilodeau-Bergeron
    Lesley Bouza
    Megan Chartrand
    Rebecca Dowd Lekx
    Paulina Francisco
    Marie Magistry
    Stephanie Manias
    Emily Wall
  • Alto
    April Babey
    Charlotte Cumberbirch
    Marie-Josée Goyette
    Josée Lalonde
    Claudia Lemcke
    Rosalie Lane Lépine
    Rachel Pelletier-Tremblay
    Gena van oosten
    Meagan Zantingh
  • Tenor
    Kerry Bursey
    Richard Duguay
    Dominique Gagné
    Aldéo Jean
    Joé Lampron-Dandonneau
    Patrick McGill
    David Menzies
    Arthur Tanguay-Labrosse
  • Bass
    Martin Auclair
    Ryne Cherry
    John Giffen
    Robert Huard
    Emanuel Lebel
    Bernard Levasseur
    Phililppe Martel
    Nathaniel Watson

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