Mozart's Requiem

In 2015, Andrew Clark, the Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University, commissioned me to complete Mozart’s unfinished Requiem fragment in the style of Mozart. In the summer of 2017, I conducted a first performance at Harvard University (Boston Globe article) and in Peterborough, NH, as part of the Monadnock Music festival (The Keene Sentinel article). But I continued to research and work on the completion.

In 2019, the (almost) final result was presented at the Rheingau Musik Festival in Kloster Eberbach, and subsequently recorded for Coviello Classics , with soloists Gabriela Scherer, Anke Vondung, Tilman Lichdi, and Tobias Berndt, Chorwerk Ruhr, and Concerto Köln conducted by Florian Helgath. The edition offers few alternate movement scenarios and instrumentation options, all of which cannot be ruled out against each other, providing performers with choices. Consequently, the recording presents only one possible rendition. Florian Helgath, in his recording, did include the Amen fugue and opted for the pair of movements Sanctus & Benedictus starting in D minor and giving the Hosanna fugue in B-flat major from Süßmayr's version. In the recording with the Ensemble Vocal and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, conducted by John Nelson, it is the opposite: The Amen fugue at the end of the Lacrimosa is omitted, the Sanctus begins in D major, Sanctus and Benedictus conclude with a Hosanna fugue in D major.

In my completion, Handel's and Bach's influence on Mozart plays a key role. The Amen fugue, for the first time, is based on models by Bach Mozart knew.

In July 2022, Bärenreiter published the edition, which had been delayed due to the Corona pandemic. A comprehensive accompanying study titled “Fact and Fiction” was also released as a downloadable PDF. As a center-piece, the full score includes a source-critical edition of Mozart’s Requiem fragment (hence the label URTEXT edition), with the completion serving as an alternative to Süßmayr’s version. Scores and vocal scores sold out within just a few months, resulting in the second edition being published the same year. The accompanying study Fact and Fiction will soon be released as an e-book. Links to more information about my studies on Mozart’s Requiem and my attempt to complete it can be found here.

Bärenreiter released a series of four videos about the new edition (German with English subtitles).

University of Cologne published a multi-media story about the edition (German only).

Here you will find a detailed brochure on the edition (English / German).

Visit the official website of Bärenreiter for additional information, for example about the performance material (English / German).

You can find the study „Fact and Fiction” on the Bärenreiter website here (English / German).

nmz - neue musikzeitung interviewed me about the new edition and released an excerpt.

In the foreword to the edition, I propose three performance alternatives all possible with the performance material: (1) Mozart's fragment, (2) the authentic Mozart parts with orchestration following Mozart's practice, as provided by the edition, optionally including Süßmayr's Lacrimosa completion, which is found in the Appendix, and (3) a complete realization. Moreover, I see no issue with proceeding with Süßmayr’s completion following the second alternative. In any case, it would be advisable to provide the audience with appropriate guidance through program booklets or introductions, allowing them, given they want to do so, to distinguish which parts have originated from Mozart and which have been contributed by other authors.

Interestingly, already since the days of the Requiem controversy that began in 1725, recipients are not always able to determine which musical vocabulary comes from Mozart and which does not. For example, in this concert review in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Christian Wildhagen complains about "how quickly the fragile framework of a meticulously imitated Mozart style can be broken again by some very bumpy harmonic shifts", without knowing that these were, in fact, composed by Mozart.

My completion was performed on many occasions and venues around the globe like at Alte Oper Frankfurt, Berlin Philharmonic, Harvard University, Kloster Rheinau (Switzerland), Monadnock Music Festival (New Hampshire), Rheingau Musik Festival (in Kloster Eberbach), Tower Hall Funabori in Tokyo, Tonhalle Zürich, University of Cologne as well as in New Port (Wales), Pretoria (South Africa), Richmond (California), Salt Lake City (Utah), to name a few. The recording was aired by numerous public service broadcasters and radio stations of different countries.



Critical Edition of the Year (Presto Music Awards 2022)

Three nominations (“Ensemble”, “Choral Recording”, “Editorial Achivement”) for an OPUS KLASSIK in 2021 (CD)

“Le Disque classique du jour”, Radio France (CD)



[Ostrzyga] spielt sich weder als Gralshüter der Tradition noch als wahnhafter Mozart redivivus auf, sondern geht mit fundiertem historischem Wissen, hohem Problembewusstsein, sicherer Metierkenntnis und ästhetischem Takt an die Arbeit. Dabei nutzt er den Vorteil, nicht nur die Erkenntnisse umfangreicher musikwissenschaftlicher Forschungen zu Mozarts Fragment auswerten zu können, sondern auch die Ergebnisse aller vor ihm liegenden Ergänzungsversuche. Außerdem blickt er über den Rand von Mozarts kirchenmusikalischem Schaffen hinaus auf Vorbilder, die zunächst der Salzburger, dann der Wiener Komponist kennengelernt und studiert hatte. [...] Im Blick auf alle bisherigen Requiem-Bearbeitungen kann man Ostrzygas qualitätvoller, in jeder Hinsicht seriösen und ehrlichen Arbeit den hohen Respekt nicht versagen. Wer es sich mit Mozarts Werk nicht gedankenlos einfach machen will, der greife zu dieser vom Verlag bestens ausgestatteten neuen Edition. Sich mit ihr praktisch wie theoretisch ernsthaft auseinanderzusetzen lohnt die Mühe allemal.

The new completion offers choirs and orchestras the opportunity to perform this legendary work in a well-thought-through version based on the most up-to-date knowledge available.

Im Juli 2022 erschien das komplette Aufführungsmaterial mit umfangreichen Begleittexten, dazu ein Buch ‚Fakt und Fiktion – Das Requiem Mozarts – Eine Einführung‘, in dem Ostrzyga Zeugnis ablegt von der äußerst umfangreichen und sorgfältigen, verantwortungsbewussten Vorarbeit. Höchst lesenswert. [...] Michael Ostrzygas ausgereifte Version des Mozart-Requiem hat große Beachtung und angemessene Verbreitung im Musikleben verdient.

Der Kölner Musiker und Musikwissenschaftler Michael Ostrzyga (*1975) hat auf dieser Grundlage aufwändig recherchiert und bekannte Quellen neu bewertet, dazu die Musik Johann Sebastian Bachs und Georg Friedrich Händels als mögliche Impulsgeber für Mozart herangezogen. Ziel dieser akribischen Arbeit war, jener Fassung so nah wie möglich zu kommen, die Mozart geschrieben hätte, wenn er das Werk hätte vollenden können. Besonders die Partitur der Neuausgabe ist eine editorische Meisterleistung, detailliert werden die einzelnen Schichten der überlieferten Quellenlage im Notentext kenntlich gemacht. Diese Hinweise gehen weit darüber hinaus, dass Mozart das Requiem nur bis zum achten Takt des ‚Lacrimosa‘ skizziert hat.

In a review by Dr. Jürgen Schaarwächter in the German magazine “das Orchester” (issue 5/2023), contrasting opinions emerge when compared to other reviews, as reflected in quotes from a select few provided above. Unbeknownst to him, the issues Schaarwächter supposedly raised have already been comprehensively addressed in the publication "Fact & Fiction", which accompanies the edition. This should be evident to anyone who reads it. Two points stand out: First, Schaarwächter overlooks that “Urtext” refers to Mozart’s Requiem fragment, clearly marked and performable with the provided materials. Second, he claims that “the critical apparatus is simply none” (“der Kritische Apparat ist schlicht keiner”) but ignores the accompanying 225-page publication. Schaarwächter could have then noticed, for instance, that, it goes without saying, relevant editions and attempts at completion from 1791 up to the present day, the insights they offer, and the extensive literature on the subject (including historical additions by Eybler and Süßmayr) have been extensively taken into account. In summary, it can be said that Dr. Jürgen Schaarwächter presented an obviously hastily penned review of Ostrzyga's Requiem Edition, arriving at unfounded assessments.

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© 2024 Michael Ostrzyga