Mozart Never Finished His 'Requiem.' Now Seraphic Fire Will

Nov 18, 2013

Credit courtesy of Seraphic Fire

When Mozart died, he left unfinished one of his most famous pieces of work: the "Requiem Mass in D Minor." Now, local classical-music group Seraphic Fire is completing it.

"Requiem" was commissioned by a baron who was known for buying musical works and passing them off as his own. But in December of 1791, Mozart died before making good on the buy.

"[Musicians have tried to finish it] to a greater or lesser degree of success,” according to Seraphic Fire artistic Director Patrick Dupré Quigley. “But all of those completions have tried to mimic the music of Mozart.”

Seraphic Fire is doing just the opposite. They’ve asked 36-year-old contemporary composer Gregory Spears to give the music a new end. For guidance, Spears didn't only look in the obvious places, such as Mozart’s other works or earlier liturgical music. He also turned to art restoration.

“I read an article about reconstructing paintings during WWII,” he says. “It was important to them for the viewers to know what was touched up. It was trying to be both faithful, but honest. It would never be trying to fool people into thinking it was the original.”

That's what Spears aims for with his completion of the work, although he doesn’t like to call it a completion.

“I think of mine as another version," he says. "It’s a wonderfully open text — it can never be completed. It can never be the perfect piece because it was never completed.”

Seraphic Fire and the Firebird Chamber Orchestra will premiere the new “alternate ending” to Mozart’s Requiem this weekend in Fort Lauderdale Nov. 15, in Coral Gables Nov. 16, and in Boca Raton Nov. 17.