Mozart lay dying, but he had one final work to bequeath to the world: the Requiem.
His wife Constanze said the composer came to believe he was composing his own funeral mass. Too weak to finish the work, Mozart supposedly left instructions on scraps of paper as to how it should be completed.
The last words he himself set to music were those of the Lacrimosa, marking “that day of tears and mourning.”
When it comes to the Requiem, it’s hard to separate poignant legend from the equally affecting truth, but one thing is certain: Mozart created an enduring work of tremendous power, consolation and beauty.
“It’s magnificent, certainly Mozart’s most important choral work,” said Bingham Vick Jr., the Greenville Chorale’s longtime artistic director and conductor.
The 150-voice Chorale will be joined by the Greenville Symphony Orchestra to perform Mozart’s Requiem at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Peace Center.
Also included on the program will be Johann Sebastian Bach’s celebratory Magnificat (1723), one of the Baroque composer’s most popular works.
The Chorale has performed both pieces many times over the past 59 years.
“We continue to return to the historic masterpieces of the repertoire because they represent the finest examples of great choral-orchestral music,” said Vick, now in his 39th year of conducting the ensemble. “They are beautiful and significant expressions that never lose their impact.”
In Mozart’s Requiem (1791), Vick hears a relatively young composer — Mozart was only 35 — striving to create a work of great depth and lasting value.
“I think that any composer, when they think their life is near the end, wants to make a final, profound statement,” Vick said. “I think that’s what went into Mozart’s music — a really important, well-crafted, enduring statement.”
Mozart delved deeply into the music of the past by Handel and Bach and brought that inspiration to bear on the Requiem. The composer juxtaposes strikingly forceful music — the “Dies Irae” (“Day or Wrath”), for instance — with intimate visions of hope and serenity (the “Recordare,” for example).
The concert concludes with Bach’s Magnificat, featuring a text from the Gospel of St. Luke.
“The words are from Mary when she is visited by the angel and told she will be the mother of the Son of God: ‘my soul magnifies the Lord,’” Vick said. “Bach’s setting is beautiful to hear, intricate in the symbolism and construction of the music, and perfect in its combination of voices and instruments. The work is not easy to master, but Bach’s music is a real treat.
The Greenville Journal’s Paul Hyde will host a pre-concert talk one hour before the performance with Hugh Ferguson Floyd, director of the Furman Singers and coordinator of choral activities at Furman University.
If you go
What: Greenville Chorale, conducted by Bingham Vick Jr.
Where: The Peace Center
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19
Info: 864-467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org