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Gerald Carpenter: Santa Barbara Master Chorale Opens Up with Mozart

Concert at First United Methodist Church constructed around Requiem

The Santa Barbara Master Chorale’s 2010-2011 season is under way with a performance of the “Requiem in d-minor, K. 626,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).

A page of the Requiem score in Mozart’s hand.
A page of the Requiem score in Mozart’s hand

I suspect that there are additional works on the program, because even the longest “completion” of the Requiem is scarcely more than 40 minutes of music — and if the chorale were performing only that which is finished and orchestrated in Mozart’s own hand, we’d be hearing less than 10 minutes. Add his notes and the vocal scores with organ continuo, we’d have maybe another 10 minutes. Granted, that is 20 minutes of incalculable sublimity, and few of us buy our music by the pound, but in any case, the concert begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church, 305 E. Anapamu St.

To most of us, including yours truly, the composition of immortal music is as deep a mystery as the virgin birth. Since we can’t understand how a mere human can write notes on a page that, when made manifest through voices and instruments, move us and shake us like nothing else. Small wonder then that we are ready to believe the most outrageous bilge about how this or that piece of great music came to be composed. Like Giovanni Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater,” the Requiem is a deathbed composition — the score likely contains not only the last notes, but the last words, in Mozart’s own hand.

Yet, despite what you think you have learned from Milos Forman’s disgusting film version of Peter Shaffer’s icky play, Amadeus, the Requiem was not commissioned by Salieri but by a rich amateur named Count Franz von Walsegg, who wanted it to commemorate the anniversary of his wife’s death. So far, so noble, but Walsegg was probably intended to pass the Requiem off as his own composition — as he had done before — but Mozart’s widow, Constanze, let the cat out of the bag when she had the work performed at a public benefit performance.

Tickets to Sunday’s concert are $20 general admission, $18 for seniors and $10 for children age 12 and under. For more information, or to reserve tickets, call 805.967.8287.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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