In 1791 a masked figure knocked at Mozart’s door. He wanted to commission a piece from the great composer – a mass for the dead. There was one condition, Mozart could never know who his client was. Mozart agreed and started work on the piece. But he soon became ill – had he been poisoned? Mozart began to fear he was writing the music for his own funeral. He died before he could finish the piece. Who was the mysterious stranger? And what’s the real story behind Mozart’s Requiem?
Original music was written by Thomas Hewitt Jones (@thewittjones). Tim Lihoreau can be found on Twitter (@TimLihoreau) and the Classic FM team can be found @ClassicFM. You can get in touch about the show at classicfm.com and find out more about this episode at classicfm.com/casenotes
The recordings featured in this episode are:
Mozart: Requiem
Sophie Karthäuser (soprano), Marie-Claude Chappuis (mezzo), Maximilian Schmitt (tenor), Johannes Weisser (baritone); Freiburger Barockorchester, RIAS Kammerchor/René Jacobs
Mozart: The Queen of the Night's aria from The Magic Flute
Sabine Devieilhe, Pygmalion/Raphaël Pichon
Franz Anton Hoffmeister: Symphony in G major 'La festa de la Pace 1791' II. Poco Adagio
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
Mozart: Piano Concerto No.25, III. Allegretto 
Piotr Anderszewski, Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Mozart: Music from The Marriage of Figaro 
Fanie Antonelou (Susanna), Christian van Horn (Figaro); MusicAeterna/Teodor Currentzis
Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito
RIAS Kammerchor, Freiburger Barockorchester/René Jacobs 
Salieri: Sinfonia in D major, 'La Veneziana' III. Presto; La locandiera III. Presto
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
United States


00:00:00a quick note before we begin just to say thank you it's been overwhelming to read your reviews and tweets and emails all about the podcast I've loved discovering the stories and sharing them with you so if you haven't done so already please leave us a review so even
00:00:15more people can enjoy these fascinating tiles this is the last episode of the first series of case notes but watch this space because if we've learned anything it's that there's no shortage of gruesome stories an unsolved in Agnes in the musical world the sun is setting on a
00:00:40warm July evening in Vienna seventeen ninety one and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is working on his latest opera fantastical love story about the power of faith in the match sounds spill in from the street outside from enjoying the last moments loans so notices his he looks up irritated he
00:01:23just thought of a great melody whoever it is knocks again Mozart puts down his quill and get some he opens the door isn't on the doorstep is a man dressed head to toe his face is covered in a gray mass he has a message from his most recent
00:01:55the commission for hammered sought if he's interested he needs a requiem no problem says there's one condition says the stranger you must never ask who my monster he's never tried to find out Mozart accepts the strangers unusual commission but little did he know this requiem would be the
00:02:25last thing he ever wrote these are the final notes Mozart composed he died while writing the right driven increasingly mad by unaware of mystery surrounded the peace and its patrons ever since who's the mysterious stranger why did motel believe and how did the great composer end up being
00:03:04destroyed by his greatest work he was determined to finish even on his deathbed some of the samples that were most of which were ported were consistent with poisoning double date go to when the heavens will be swept away I think Mozgov is collateral damage history with god with
00:03:30eternity with the immortality this is casements a podcast exploring music darkest mysteries from classic FM fine tune your in this episode mystery Mozart's requiem it's a Tuesday in the seventeen seventies and a group of musicians a gathered in a castle near the marvelously name town of blog and
00:04:00it's in the mountains of Austria the man who owns the castle is one count France von Val sake it's not a particularly great musician but he has big dreams he wants to be a composer so as any rich eighteenth century aspiring compose what he hires an ensemble to
00:04:21play his walks musicians are on his staff all year round but every Tuesday and Thursday account holds intimate soiree to show off his new compositions the musicians are given manuscripts with counts one vial sick probably written at the time the local nobility applaud politely food and drink since
00:04:46free cleanings like these are happening all over the continent but there's something different about the evenings count von Val sex meanwhile in another part of Europe another musical talent was building his career your Highness Chrysostomos both going us fail Phyllis some old as we probably know him today
00:05:16Wolfgang Amadeus it's very hard to define greatness love is a conductor that for me is one of the literally fingers of one hand creative spirits in the whole history up there with Shakespeare and Michelangelo and the people who who completely transcend ex he excelled in absolutely every category
00:05:51of music in which he wrote most stock shot to fame as a child prodigy but then he had to make the tricky transition to adult musician but as many child prodigies discover you know somebody who's a cute or even twelve year old is no longer cute when they're
00:06:12sixteen and he found it very difficult to to grow up actually and his father was still desperately trying to make money out of the genius which no doubt was was continuing to develop my name is cliff eyes and I'm professor of music history at king's college London there
00:06:34were people in the seventeen sixties when Mozart was under ten years old who were writing that %HESITATION they thought that Mozart what's remarkable but wouldn't live for very long and it's not that they were prescient but it's because people to time believe that that %HESITATION people had a
00:06:54creative life of about thirty years and they knew that Mozart has started composing prodigiously at about the age of five or six and therefore Mozart would have in their estimation of shot his bald burned out his flame by the age of thirty five by the time Mozart reached
00:07:13his twenties around the same time that come from fall sick was giving his concerts in his castle Mozart was starting to be taken seriously and to settle into his life as a professional composer he completed his first mature opera mystery dotty ready Pronto at the age of twenty
00:07:32one though you might be interested and possibly depressed to learn that he wrote his first ever opera when he was just eleven but the offer that would really give most sought a place in history come with an Intel team Figaro the marriage of Figaro he actually invented contemporary
00:08:02he changed the whole face of offers wrote offer that was about the people who came to Washington he continued this extraordinary divisive actually holding a mirror up to the audience and saying this is all about you %HESITATION into the face of all present evidence the full Mozart writes
00:08:27the marriage of Figaro opera had been about missile stories from history this opera opens with the more relatable sing a young couple measuring then you apart to make sure the furniture his figure counting with this take mission the story is set in an aristocratic household but the real
00:09:11stars of the show as the servants Figaro and his fiance Suzannah the opera takes place a few days before the wedding and follows the characters as every possible obstacle is thrown in that way in this normal sweet contrary bakery but essentially happy couple the eighteen century origins saw
00:09:33themselves Mozart's career began to some he was in demand all of Europe vying for work against the most powerful composers of the time composers like Antonio Salieri Vienna's head of opera so he was six years old at the most sought Mozart was touring Europe is a prodigy Sally
00:10:10Eric was Studley honing his craft and climbing the greasy pole of Austrian musical circles the rivalry made famous by the nineteen ninety five film Amadeus is almost certain an exaggeration but the two composers would have known each other's work they moved in the same circles but it's not
00:10:33marriage in seventeen eighty two when he was twenty six Constanza Veber was a second dose of a middle class family living in Vienna Mozart was hired as a tutor taken stands up and her sister he fell in love though not first which can stanza he saw it was
00:10:57first court my head around the system easy but when she turned him down it is the only sensible thing and moved on to consensus but what counts the passing to being well matched Mozart tool consensus writing in one matter an astonishing number of cases of flying about I
00:11:20see a whole crowd of them hi I have just cool three they are delicious I kiss you millions of time I get all excited like a child when I think about being with you again you'll who loves you with isn't so and can stanza brought some order to
00:11:44mode so the young composer had never had to look after himself he'd been showered by adoration on Molly coddled by his father well into his teens when he did have to live independently we had no idea how to manage money how to run a household will look after
00:12:02himself as we say today he didn't know how to in stanza manage the money run the house and made sure Mozart's love of billions of beer didn't takeover meanwhile in a castle near the town of glove units come outside continues his musical Swire watching envious as Mozart's career
00:12:32takes off then on Valentine's day seventeen nineteen the count's wife on a I'll say died she was just twenty years old the count was he decided his wife's memory should live on forever in a grand piece of a requiem the world would never forget that would be an
00:13:00orchestra a large choir I'm the best soloists money could buy the only problem was France von Volstagg couldn't compose turns out the pieces that he gave his musicians every week with his name written in big letters at the top well actually written my other composers who can Val
00:13:23said it secretly commission Volstagg couldn't compose another his musicians soul through the rooms so they were indulging after all the generous wages and provided food and lodging as one of them lay to set we rolled young fern considered we were giving almost to an innocent question so come
00:13:51from the house say comes up with an audacious plan for his requiem he'd get someone else to write this grand piece of music and has he done countless times before it offers is a and there was only one composer who would do the most famous composer in all
00:14:11of Europe the man whose operas was selling out across the continent the man whose music was changing the world but some well said dispatches a messenger to request a composition from a the mass to honor the life of his beloved wife Mozart stands on his doorstep looks into
00:14:46the eyes of the mysterious masked man the grey messenger Mozart and his wife concerns and later cool wants to commission a reckless compose and he'll play Hoffa the handsome free of sixty dockets from and here things get a little hazy one version of the story says Motz not
00:15:13jump to the opportunity another says he only took it on because can stand asked him to because of Mozart's gambling and drinking the couple always lived beyond their means however much Mozart was earning cliff Eisen again when Constanza Mozart was first asked about the rec room in Mozart's
00:15:36attitude towards it the story she told was that Mozart had been commissioned in December seventeen ninety one to write a requiem and he was really enthusiastic about it because he was very fond of church music that was the first version of the story she subsequently changed it chew
00:15:54that a stranger clad in great came and visited Mozart and Bach in this commission Mozart was scared even to open the door but here's what we know for sure in late summer Mozart sat down to write his first and last requiem but a month after Mozart had accepted
00:16:14a commission another piece of what came in an offer was needed the combination of let pulled the second king of Bohemia Mozart had just seven weeks the requiem was for on the twenty fifth of August seventeen ninety one after weeks of manic work Mozart Constanza a mode sauce
00:16:51assistant so smile were preparing to go to Prague to see the print media for the king just as the coach was about to leave the great message appears from a shop and grabs consensus kaput his patron is getting impatient when we receive the requiem he's been promised the
00:17:13deadline is looming Mozart shows the stranger he is working hard on the pace and it will be completed soon the grey messenger seems satisfied for now the trio had to Prague but is every student knows the it's in the post strategy only works for so long by the
00:17:37time Mozart returned from Prague the deadline for the delivery of the requiem had passed on the gray messenger was waiting on his doorstep once again rather than so much sun came up with a clever excuse peace is more interesting to me he said I am expanding it more
00:17:58than it first which is probably better than the old the dog ate it excuse the messenger granted Mozart an extra month to complete the work it's awesome mud sunsets about his requiem in earnest this time there's nothing like a deadline set by a masked stranger to focus the
00:18:22mind and here's where things start to fall apart Mozart had written masses before lots of them but never a requiem he spent his days meditating on the torments of hell god's anger and the eternity of death and it began to mess with his mind my name is Alexander
00:18:45Lucie Smith and I'm the parish priest all not pale in sorry it would have been a huge demand for recruitment and they must be on the shelves impolite if I was at the pump thousands of musical setting for the requiem mass it just happens that makes the most
00:19:07famous a requiem mass for the dead opens with the press for the deceased will live in perpetual light and it closes with a musical picture of paradise but in between is the terrifying DS what day of rough probably the most dramatic part of the mix of recommended any
00:19:47requiem is the big %HESITATION which is called the DAC array and to fight the terrible day of gold and when the data from the heavens will be swept away and yet in the midst of all that we crying out to god and he will face tough and and
00:20:05that is that it's the great drummers foundation since he grew increasingly agitated as he lowers grew increasingly to think that he was writing it for himself he became obsessed with the work to the alarm of his wife would go with them on walks with Constanza in the proctor
00:20:24and the the big park in Vienna and they would sit on the bench and he would start to cry and say that he was writing this for myself that he would soon be dead the requiem seem to be sending him Matt concerns a try taking the music away
00:20:39from him it was quite scary for concern to to because she at one point took it away from him wouldn't let him get it get near it because she thought it was doing his head and which ones you made him take walks in the process to breathe the
00:20:53fresh air Mozart's mental health looked shaky and then the physical decline started Mozart complained of pains his limbs and body began to swell too bad but he was determined to finish it even though Mr Constanza didn't know what to do she'd seen him well before the but she
00:21:18had a very young baby and she holds her youngest sister Sophie in to help I think she had known who feeling either that this was going to be the end socially valuable Mozart sister in law left one of the few first hand accounts of Mozart's final days when
00:21:41Mozart fell ill we made a night shift which you could put on from the front we could not turn over because of the swelling the next day was a Sunday I was still young and I admitted vein and I like dressing up but I never liked walking from
00:21:57a suburb into town in my best clothes and I had not the money for going by carriage so I said to a good mother tomorrow I should go into minutes out today he was so well yesterday that he'll be back to still today and one more day will
00:22:12not make a difference I went into the kitchen I had gone out I had to lie to taper kindle the fire so it was still constantly on my mind my coffee was ready and my candles still burning and so how waist when I had been to burn so
00:22:33much of my candle cattle will still burning brightly I stood straight out my candle and thought what home Saudis so I was thinking this and looking at my candle candle went out it went out as if it had never been a night not even the spark remained on
00:22:53the big week there was no dropped to that I can swim horrible feeling came over me I shouted and ran to a mother according to serve his account she runs straight to the Mozart's house to find a great composer much worse my god how frightened I was when
00:23:15my sister hope despairing it trying to console herself came to meet me and said thank god you've come to the surface he was so bad last night that I never thought he would survive this day stay with me today for if he gets bad again he will die
00:23:30in the night given to him for a little and see how he's I try to control myself and went up to his bed when he called me at once do so for me it is good of you to come you must stay here tonight see me die it
00:23:55was clear to everyone that Mozart was mortally but he would not stop working on he was confined to bed his body painfully swollen seas rich but he was still composing his mass for the dead with his assistance so smart furiously trying to write down his employees musical ideas
00:24:19I think when he started it he absolutely intend should mom and indeed was trying to impress on the spot as we know in this heart rending account with my sister in law office in nineteen the last thing she remembers him doing is trying to tell I think those
00:24:58creative juices still flying today in he began to do to it's not taken to his bed two weeks that afternoon his staff a number of friends came over to his place and saying through some of the completed parts of the requiem with them and they got to the
00:25:25Lacrimosa and most are had to put the score down and everyone laughed and about twelve hours later he was dead the end was so sudden I began to ask questions was it really just an acute illness did the requisite somehow drive him into an early grave all was
00:25:52there an even more sinister course behind the desk of the greatest composer the world had ever seen most medical experts agreed that the description of six medical symptoms at the time is so vague that they are consistent with any one of a number of %HESITATION potentially fatal diseases
00:26:16and so that doesn't rule out poisoning could Mozart have been the victim of an assassination find out more after the break there's one theory about Mozart's death that has to be addressed his theory you'll be familiar with if you've seen the film bowls the composer Antonio Sally a
00:26:51prominent figure in the Viennese musical world at the time he was a very successful very eminent venerable Italian compose that Simon Keefe is a professor of music at the university of Sheffield who had moved his way out out relatively quickly in the Viennese are musical establishment from perhaps
00:27:14the late seventeen seventies onwards he was a senior figure seen about tonight's but also in in position to Mozart but his music hasn't stood the test of time and his name would be all but forgotten today were it not for one moment class size in that cell yelling
00:27:34at the end of his life west put in a mental institution don't know quite what it was dementia or whether he had a nervous breakdown but while he was in this city in a hospital he claimed to have place and Mozart this is the big gossip of the
00:27:53day the big tabloid news Mozart's wife can stanza wasn't going to let a publicity moment like that go to waste she found the flames by telling a biographer her husband thought someone was trying to kill him I'm sure I've been poisoned Mozart is meant to upset I cannot
00:28:13rid myself of this idea my name is Lucy on them some mighty and I am playing the role of Antonio Salieri in at the national theatre's production Alva Amadeus and was well respected and well teacher and conductor in his heyday and was at one point the most successful
00:28:42musician in in Europe strikes me as but cross between as an act and %HESITATION a child who wants to be loved am an addicted child of all the Tennessee put it that way in the play salutary doesn't just setting out to kill Mozart he patiently and meticulously dismantles
00:29:06his life and career but I think Mozart is the is collateral damage in some ways I think he's real battle is with god with with eternity with the immortality that's who is fighting against and but you know the house always wins doesn't it who I wanted to be
00:29:36valuable and true to me was that I I just want to music that's All I Want to thank this I didn't actually once by box I would secure my place in history not as someone who is loaded but this result because I am the one who snuffed out
00:30:13god's voice how much truth is that to this story Sally Harry had an impressive career of his own true his music doesn't reach anywhere near the height of genius of Mozart's but sunny airy was the one holding the post of music director of the imperial court just a
00:30:33glance at his own CV would have been enough to silence Sally aeris murderous thoughts and ask for sabotaging his career well Mozart could do a perfectly good job of that himself with his gambling drinking an extravagant taste so if it wasn't poison how did Mozart die the approach
00:30:56that most people have taken is to have a look at the symptoms just see what sort of conditions that might fit Andrew step to professor of epidemiology and psychology has looked into the question in detail we took a slightly different approach we were lucky enough to be able
00:31:13to get access to old death records in Vienna which were very conscientiously maintained in fact for several hundred years and we found the most common cause of death of that time was to particular cases and then the second largest group was a group which is probably to do
00:31:30with malnutrition and then the third group which we particularly interested in was characterized by swelling of the body which in modern terms would be mostly to do with things like heart failure and possibly kidney failure renal failure as well around the same time there was a sort of
00:31:47mine epidemic of deaths of this type with this kind of swelling it more than doubled during this period particularly among younger men %HESITATION and what it is probably relates to is something rather mundane which is namely a streptococcal infection now strip confirmed factions of course we still have
00:32:07and you will typically take antibiotics and is a problem of course at that time there were problems we think it's probable that his death was a something called the glomeruli nephrite to switch is a kind of a secondary kidney complaint secondly to this infectious illness an infection something
00:32:29that could have been easily treated by modern medicine but there's still the unsettling fact that while he was dying Mozart was working on his one and only mass for the dead what's more he didn't even manage to complete the work he went to complete sections can't stop the
00:32:51voice parts for two more and only wrote a tiny fragment from Lacrimosa so it's hard to resist so that in some way the record brought much closer to death so the extended Lucie Smith every requiem mass is also a man for everybody who has died in deathly ruled
00:33:46quote we all get the same treatment will come before called so in some ways is deeply personal ice was a comforting to know that you know we're all in this together so it's common for well there's something beautiful about death at the same time this weather and peaceful
00:34:16liberating that's what makes his requiem a great work of art if you don't a cry of pain that's why one would want to have to make tough requiem for once said that when you know you're lying there in the coffin you enjoying clean with the angels for the
00:34:36people left on that they were in the minds concentrates on what's happening finally got its first performance on the second of January seventeen ninety three over a year after Mozart's death constraints it was determined to deliver the completed requiem to count from Val sake otherwise she'd have to
00:35:33return the fee I'm without Mozart's income she needed all the money she could get so she just mowed sought subsistence to smile to complete the work as Jane Glover explains it was finished for him by his faithful people Systema who had done all the stuff for him %HESITATION
00:35:55and many people think that this is mine did was after the end of the question in an awesome night so sneakers home of course not but I have to say I never do anything except this mullah completion because there's something wonderfully eloquent about the fact that it's not
00:36:23up to what might sound is also when all said and done this is my was the and that's good enough for me it could be just to convince but it's a pretty striking but most song writing his one mass for the dead no it's not I think it
00:36:55comes along in the requiem which is of course his great work upon death so you're forced to look again the series seem so outlandish for this is one of the greatest works as it was simply too much was the price demanded for writing the world's greatest mass for
00:37:25the dead most sites many thanks to our guests cliff ice Jane Glover Andrew step to father Alexander Lucie Smith and Simon king recordings of Mozart's music we used courtesy of Harmonia mundi Sony classical wanna classics and channels thanks also to my confidence our theme music and additional compositions
00:38:17about Thomas Hewitt case notes produces are Elizabeth Davis and Rachel Humphries some design a mixing all over Morris in June Hutchison Meghan was still is the executive producer and special thanks go to Steve Wilson bill's son Jackson James

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