Touching Immortality at the World’s Fair

I’m on vacation, so this week’s entry comes straight from Wikipedia. I find it fascinating:


The autograph [of Mozart’s Requiem] at the 1958 World’s Fair

The autograph of the Requiem was placed on display at the World’s Fair in 1958 in Brussels. At some point during the fair, someone was able to gain access to the manuscript, tearing off the bottom right-hand corner of the second to last page (folio 99r/45r), containing the words “Quam olim d: C:” (an instruction that the “Quam olim” fugue of the Domine Jesu was to be repeated “da capo“, at the end of the Hostias). The perpetrator has not been identified and the fragment has not been recovered.
If the most common authorship theory is true, then “Quam olim d: C:” might very well be the last words Mozart wrote before he died. It is probable that whoever stole the fragment believed that to be the case.


The last page of the last work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The last page of the last work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

An interesting note for music nerds like myself: the Quam olim fugue of the Domine Jesu was actually not repeated “da capo” as Mozart had instructed at the end of the Hostias in the finished version by Franz Xavier Süssmeyr. Süssmeyr deviated a good deal from Mozart’s instructions and there’s a raging controversy, after a certain point in the manuscript, about how much of the music is by whom. There have been a number of reconstructions more recently where it has been added. However, no truly “definitive” version of the piece exists.

And if you’ve seen the movie or the play Amadeus, please don’t believe most of how either work depicts the creation of the Requiem. Antonio Salieri had nothing to do with the completion, and the image of Mozart lying in bed dictating it as he lay dying is romantic myth. Myths can be fun, but they’re just myths.

Getting back to the manuscript, it shows that some people go to considerable trouble to snatch a piece of immortality. Some of us write, some of us paint, some of us write computer code or start companies we hope will be behind long after we are. Some of us do bad things—start wars, kill people, go on enormous crime sprees.

Artists, you might just argue, are among the top who strive hardest to pursue immortality while leaving the world a better place.





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