Thomas Hengelbrock, architecture of Mozart | Culture

Thomas Hengelbrock, architecture of Mozart | Culture

The Requiem Mozart speaks persuasively to each generation. The phrase is from the musicologist Edward Dickinson, from 1902, and the idea has been widely developed by Simon P. Keefe in a recent book (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Not only was he admired by Beethoven, who reacted to the criticisms that discredited him at the beginning of 1820, but inspired the religious works of Schubert Y Rossini. Its echo is perceived in the Large messe des morts, of Berlioz, and inspired Liszt two piano transcriptions. For Wagner it was a determining composition, Tchaikovsky especially admired its beginning and Rimsky-Korsakov quotes it in his opera Mozart and Salieri. Mahler Y Richard Strauss he was usually directed in concert and for Bartók It was an obligatory subject of study. He always fascinated Szymanowski and Janácek, but also Britten, who considered it a fundamental precedent of his War Requiem, and to Ligeti, who gave him his first contact with a mass of the dead.

But Requiem Mozart is a composition as beautiful and fascinating as it is problematic. The composer died, in December of 1791, leaving the work drastically unfinished. Only the introit "Requiem Aeternam" and the rest wrote a very precise sketch from the "Kyrie" to the "Hostias" with the soloists and the chorus, the part of the bass and light instrumental notes. As is well known, it was completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr, a close collaborator of the composer, after two failed attempts by Franz Jakob Freistädtler and Joseph Leopold Eybler. Süssmayr was forced to compose the "Sactus", "Benedictus" and "Agnus Dei", making use of slight annotations of the composer that have not been conserved, although for the communio "Lux Aeterna" decided to limit itself to reworking the "Introito" and the "Kyrie". This consideration of open and unfinished work has encouraged several musicologists and composers, especially in recent decades, to add retouching or propose alternative versions. A work as interesting as infinite.

The German conductor Thomas Hengelbrock (Wilhelmshaven, 1958) recognized this month, within the pages of the magazine Scherzo, opt for Süssmayr's version, after having studied and tested all versions of the Requiem. "Süssmayr is not Mozart, but you can feel that the music is very close to his ideas and has a real atmosphere," he acknowledged. For this he relies on an admirable choral and orchestral ensemble, with instruments and criteria of the era, which he himself founded in the nineties, and named after the German Baroque architect Johann Balthasar Neumann. And it is not a coincidence. Hengelbrock provides a constructive conception in each of his concerts. Here he intends to identify echoes and traces of the past in Mozart's mass. Open your program with the Mass Superba to 14 , a composition written, around 1674, by the chapel master of the Bavarian Elector, Johann Kaspar Kerll, as a portico of access to the Requiem of Mozart without intermediate pause. Two consecutive masses, but more than a century away, which were heard yesterday, at the National Auditorium in Madrid, within the Baroque Universe series of the CNDM, and which will be played again, Monday, at the Palau de la Música Catalana .

Obviously, the Requiem Mozart is a composition strongly linked to the traditions of Austrian sacred music. It is well known, moreover, that the composer was inspired by models by Florian Leopold Gassmann and Michael Haydn, and even also in several compositions by Händel. But the experiment of putting a seventeenth-century mass before it did not seem ideal. And, especially, if it is done with the same organic string and voices as for Mozart. Already in the "Kyrie" there was a certain imbalance in the concertato between the soloists and the immense tutti. But all the doubts were dissipating on the way to the "Creed". Hengelbrock squeezed every dissonance and turned the "Et incarnatus est" into a moment of true spiritual suspension.

The atmosphere of Kerll's mass, with those full of choirs and instrumentals, paid a boost Requiem of interesting baroque resonances. The German director, who is a strong heir to the Mozart of Harnoncourt, encouraged an intense, sharp and impressive reading of the work from beginning to end. The ascent towards the beginning of the sequence was already exciting, with that kettledrum of apocalyptic tint. Hengelbrock crowned him with one of the best moments of the night: an imposing version of "Dies irae" where text and music were all one. But the poor intonation of the bass Reinhard Mayr revealed, at the beginning of the "Tuba mirum", that the soloists extracted from the Balthasar-Neumann-Chor were going to be the main Achilles heel of this magnificent version of the Mozartian requiem. The German director did not spare in fascinating textures in the accompaniment or exploited with dramatic ends that game of infernal and celestial contrasts of "Confutatis". The impasto of the choir and the orchestra was ideal in the "Lacrimosa", which sounded articulated almost as a kind of funeral march. And the offertory was another happy moment of the evening, with that energetic da capo end of "Quam olim". That indication was, precisely, the last thing that Mozart wrote in his autograph score, although a soulless fetishist cut it, in 1958, during the Brussels Expo, and has never recovered.

But one of the most surprising and personal moments of the concert was missing, which was the "Agnus Dei". Hengelbrock loaded the inks and turned Süssmayr's best intervention on Mozart's work into a Beethovenian window into the future. Then, in "Lux aeterna", we heard the most outstanding intervention of the soprano Katja Stuber, but also a disturbing rhetorical pause that unleashed a resounding final escape. The ovations of the public came after almost twenty seconds of silence. We all expected a tip related to Mozart's 263 birthday, but the German director continued with his personal celestial ascent at the head of his magnificent choir. First they sang the coral Komm, or Tod, du Schlafes Bruder (Come, oh death, sister of the dream!), Of the cantata BWV 56, of Bach. And then the Cúcubic Anthem, Op. 27/5, by Pavel Chesnokov, a Soviet choir director who died in 1944. Two exquisite ornaments, past and future, for that fascinating and problematic Mozartian building that continues to speak to us, more than two hundred years later.


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