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It's no wonder Mozart's death ended up as a Hollywood movie; the mystery, intrigue and speculation surrounding it is greater than fiction.
The 1984 film Amadeus – which went on to win eight Oscars including Best Picture – is centred on the period of Mozart’s life leading up to his demise, and the composition which dominated his final days, his requiem.
Acute kidney disease, syphilis, rheumatic fever, mercury exposure, trichinosis from eating undercooked pork chops – rumours abounded on the cause of Mozart’s death in the winter of 1791. But it was the salacious scandal surrounding Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s colleague and rival, that fuelled suspicion the 35-year-old had been poisoned.
Adding to the sinister gossip was the fact that Mozart had been visited by an anonymous, masked man, earlier in 1791 to commission him to write a requiem mass. He needed the money and accepted. But as he grew weaker, Mozart became more obsessed with the notion that he was writing a mass for his own death. And so it happened, he died, leaving the requiem unfinished.
Mozart’s music has everything from fire and brimstone to heavenly, ethereal redemption. The drama is driven through the Dies irae, gradually building to a climax and catharsis of the well-known Lacrimosa.
The ethereal, tender strains of the Recordare, which comes between the revelatory terror of the Rex Tremendae and the vehemence of the Confutatis, is the Requiem’s only vision of a world not afflicted by pain or grieving.
Contrast Mozart’s epic work with Ravel’s charming, nostalgic suite Mother Goose, in which the composer captures childhood innocence with beguiling perfection. Ravel’s signature elegance and luminous orchestral colours shine through as the Orchestra takes you through the mystery, magic and fantasy of these five fairy tales.