The College of Music at the University of Colorado Boulder is preparing to cap off a banner year with a performance of one of music’s monumental masterworks. On Tuesday, May 2, the CU Symphony Orchestra and Choirs bring Mozart’s masterpiece, the Requiem in D minor, to the Macky Auditorium stage.
The epic mass has been shrouded in mystery and intrigue in the two-and-a-quarter centuries since the great composer died while writing it. Dramatized in the finale of the 1984 Oscar-winning film “Amadeus,” little is known about how the piece was finally finished, and how much of the work is actually that of Mozart.
“Mozart didn’t finish it. There were parts that had to be filled in by his associate, Franz Xaver Süssmayr,” says Gary Lewis, director of orchestral studies. “So there’s a lot of myth surrounding how it happened, what fragments or sketch materials Mozart might have left for Süssmayr, how much of it is his and how much is Mozart’s.”
The culminating work of a career that spanned 30 years and 600 works, including symphonies, operas, concertos and other pieces, the Requiem is revered not just for the story surrounding it but also for the feelings it evokes through its 14 movements.
“This piece, from beginning to end, offers so much drama,” says choral conducting doctoral student Nathan Payant. “You’ve got fire, passion, beauty, serenity, mystery, and I think that intrigues audiences. As a singer, it makes it really fun to sing.”
The piece, which was said to have been commissioned by an Austrian aristocrat and amateur musician who meant to claim it as his own as a tribute to his late wife, features a small orchestra, mixed choir and solo vocalists. Members of all four of CU’s choirs will join Lewis and the CU Symphony in the performance.
“It comes down to collaboration,” says Payant. “There are so many amazing musicians here on campus and it’s always fun when we have a chance to collaborate with each other, especially on the greatest choral work there is.”
Lewis says the opportunity to bring together two signature areas of the college called for such a legendary work.
“It’s always a grand occasion when you have those forces on stage. That tends to mean we’re performing works epic in nature and large in scope, so that lends a certain importance to the event.”
The concert, which is free and open to the public, is the final in an academic year that saw the College of Music launch its music+ fundraising campaign. The effort to engage alumni and other stakeholders in the future of the college and raise $50 million toward program improvements opens the door for more big-ticket concerts like this one in the future.
“What the campaign allows us to do is to have the resources and the ability to attract the very finest students and faculty, and the ability to publicize what we’re doing here to an even greater degree,” Lewis says. “I see it as an enhancement of what we’ve already been doing in the college for a long time, but making it bigger and better.”
Also on the program is Suite No. 2 from Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé.” Mozart’s Requiem is Tuesday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Macky Auditorium. The concert is free and open to the public. Watch a preview with Nathan Payant: