The Kennedy Center

Requiem, K. 626

About the Work

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
© Peter Laki

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756, and died in Vienna on December 5, 1791. He began working on his Requiem in the summer of 1791; the work was left unfinished at the time of his death. The score was completed by Mozart's pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr (1766-1803), who filled out various missing parts and also took responsibility for the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei movements.

The Mozart-Süssmayr Requiem was first performed on January 2, 1793, at Vienna's Jahn Hall in a concert sponsored by Mozart's longtime patron and friend, Baron Gottfried van Swieten.

Franz Beyer's edition, prepared in 1971 and revised in 1979, corrected some of Süssmayr's errors in orchestration, but preserved the familiar form of the work, believing that he movements Süssmayr claimed to have composed himself had to be based on detailed instructions from Mozart.

The Mozart Requiem runs about an hour in performance. The score calls for 2 basset horns (lower-pitched members of the clarinet family), 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, organ, and strings, in addition to four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and mixed chorus.


The story of Mozart's Requiem is well known: the composer received a commission from an Austrian aristocrat, who didn't reveal his identity to him, to write a Requiem in memory of the aristocrat's wife. Mozart left the work unfinished at the time of his death; the Requiem was subsequently completed by his student Franz Xaver Süssmayr.

How much of the Requiem, as we know it from the Süssmayr version, is actually Mozart's work? Definitely by him are: the first-movement Introit, the vocal parts and bassline of the Kyrie fugue, the most of the Sequence (Dies irae, Tuba mirum, Rex tremendae, Recordare, Confutatis, and the Lacrimosa which breaks off after the eighth measure), as well as the Offertory (Domine Deus and Hostias). The Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei were scored by Süssmayr, though Mozart may have played or sung some of the music to Süssmayr the way he intended it to go. From the Sanctus on, probably none of the music is by Mozart, except for the last movement. The Communion "Lux aeterna" repeats the music of the opening Introit and Kyrie movements, probably at Mozart's suggestion.

The most crucial part of the Requiem is the Sequence, which Mozart set as a cantata in six movements, with chorus and solo voices alternating. After the powerful "Dies irae," the wondrous sound of the trumpet on Judgment Day is represented by a solo trombone (one of the earliest great trombone solos in the literature). Each of the four soloists voices different feelings about the Day of Wrath before they join together as a quartet. Throughout the sequence, the monumental aspect of the Judgment is expressed by the chorus while the soloists give voice to the anguish of the individual soul. The Sequence culminates in the Lacrimosa-a gripping lament for humanity at the moment when its fate is about to be decided.

In the Offertory, Mozart paints the horrors of hell and the attainment of eternal light in equally vivid colors; the promise made to Abraham is represented by a magnificent choral fugue.

In the following "apocryphal" movements Süssmayr did his best to prevent the intensity of the music from flagging; he mostly succeeded, aside from just a few awkward moments that, however, have become almost hallowed by the more than 200 years of the work's history. (In the last few decades, several new editions have appeared, offering alternative solutions.)

Mozart, who fell ill during the composition of the Requiem, may have felt he was writing it for his own funeral. Yet at the same time the work was in many ways a new beginning: it contains many stylistic elements that Mozart would no doubt have developed further, had he not died just weeks before his 36th birthday. Baroque counterpoint meets an almost Romantic sensitivity here in a completely novel way, but it was left to others to draw the consequences.



I. Requiem



Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,

et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Te decet hymnus, Deus in Sion,

et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.

Exaudi orationem meam,

ad te omnis caro veniet.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,

et lux perpetua luceat eis.


Give them eternal rest, o Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them.

A hymn, o God, becomes You in Zion,

and a vow shall be paid to You in Jerusalem.

Hear my prayer,

all flesh shall come to You.

Give them eternal rest, o Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them.

II. Kyrie

Kyrie eleison.

Christe eleison.

Kyrie eleison.


Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy,

III. Sequence

1. Dies irae


Dies irae, dies illa,

solvet saeclum in favilla,

teste David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,

quando judex est venturus,

cuncta stricte discussurus.



The day of wrath, that day,

will dissolve the world in ashes,

as prophesied by David and the Sibyl.


How great a trembling there shall be

when the Judge shall appear

and separate everything strictly.



2. Tuba mirum


Tuba mirum spargens sonum,

per sepulchra regionum,

coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit et natura,

cum resurget creatura,

judicandi responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,

in quo totum continetur,

unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,

quidquid latet apparebit,

nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?

Quem patronum rogaturus.

cum vix justus sit securus?



The trumpet, sending its wondrous sound

throughout the tombs of every land,

will summon everyone before the throne.


Death and Nature will be stupefied,

when all creation rises again

to answer Him who judges.


A book will be brought forth

in which everything will be contained,

by which the world will be judged.


When the Judge takes His place,

anything hidden will be revealed,

nothing will remain unavenged.


The day of wrath, that day,

will dissolve the world in ashes,

as prophesied by David and the Sibyl.


What can a wretch like me say?

What patron shall I ask for help

when the just are scarcely protected?


3. Rex tremendae

Rex tremendae majestatis,

qui salvandos salvas gratis,

salva me, fons pietatis.

King of terrible majesty,

who freely saves those worthy of redemption,

save me, Source of Mercy!



4. Recordare


Recordare, Jesu pie,

quod sum cause tuae viae,

ne me perdas illa die.

Quaerens me sedisti lassus,

redemisti crucem passus,

tantus labor non sit cassus.

Juste judex ultionis,

donum fac remissionis,

ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco tamquam reus,

culpa rubet vultus meus,

supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,

et latronem exaudisti,

mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae,

sed tu, bonus, fac benigne,

ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta,

et ab hoedis me sequestra,

statuens in parte dextra.


Remember, sweet Jesus,

that I am the cause of your suffering,

do not forsake me on that day.


Seeking me, you descended wearily,

You redeemed me by suffering on the cross,

such great effort should not have been in vain.


Just Judge of Vengeance,

grant the gift of remission

before the day of reckoning.


I groan like a criminal,

my face blushes with guilt,

God, spare a supplicant.


You who absolved Mary [Magdalene]

and inclined your ear to the thief,

have also given me hope.


My prayers are unworthy,

but, Good One, have mercy,

that I may not burn in everlasting fire.


Grant me a place among the sheep,

and separate me from the goats,

keeping me at your right hand.



5. Confutatis

Confutatis maledictis,

flammis acribus addictis,

voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,

cor contritum quasi cinis,

gere curam mei finis.

When the damned are dismayed

and assigned to the burning flames,

call me among the blessed.


I pray, suppliant and kneeling,

my heart contrite as ashes,

care for me when my time is at an end.



6. Lacrimosa


Lacrimosa dies illa,

qua resurget ex favilla,

judicandus homo reus.

Huic ergo parce Deus,

Pie Jesu Domine,

dona eis requiem. Amen.


What weeping that day will bring,

when from the ashes shall arise

all humanity to be judged.

But spare me, God,

Merciful Lord Jesus,

grant them eternal rest. Amen.

IV. Offertory

  1. Domine Deus

Domine Jesu Christe, rex gloriae,

libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum

de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu!

Libera eas de ore leonis,

ne absorbeat eas Tartarus,

ne cadant in obscurum,

Sed signifer sanctus Michael representet eas

in lucem sanctam,

quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus.


O Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory,

deliver the souls of all the faithful departed

from the pains of hell and from the deep pit;

deliver them from the lion's mouth

don't let them be swallowed by hell,

don't let them fall into darkness.

But have the holy standard-bearer, Michael,

lead them into the holy light

which you once promised to Abraham and his seed.



  1. Hostias

Hostias et preces tibi, Domine,

laudis offerimus.

Tu suscipe pro animabus illis,

quarum hodie memoriam facimus:

fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam,

quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus.

Sacrifices and prayers of praise,

Lord, we offer to you.

Receive them today for the souls

of those we commemorate this day;

make them, o Lord, pass from death to the life

which you once promised to Abraham and his seed.

V. Sanctus


Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,

Dominus Deus Sabaoth!

Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua!
Hosanna in excelsis!

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Hosanna in excelsis!


Holy, holy, holy,

Lord God of Hosts.

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,

Hosanna in the highest!


VI. Benedictus

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Hosanna in excelsis.


Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

VII. Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

dona eis requiem.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

dona eis requiem sempiternam.


Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world,

grant them rest.

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world,

grant them eternal rest.

VIII. Lux aeterna (Communion)


Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,

cum sanctis tuis in aeternum, quia pius es.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,

et lux perpetua luceat eis

cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,

quia pius es.


May eternal light shine upon them, o Lord,

with your saints in eternity, for you are merciful.

Give them eternal rest, o Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them
with your saints for ever,

for you are merciful.