On 24 December 1791 the Wiener Zeitung described the atmosphere and circumstances of an event that was widely taken notice of: Ten days before, 4000 people had gathered in St Nicholas (chrám svatého Mikuláše) in the Lesser Town of Prague for a ceremony to commemorate Wolfgang Amadé Mozart, who had died on 5 December. On this occasion, the kapellmeister Jan Joseph Strobach (1731–1794) directed a requiem by Antonio Rosetti (ca. 1750–1792), who at the time was employed at the court of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Ludwigslust. The work was performed by the leading musicians of Prague; the solo soprano part was sung by Josepha Duschek/Duskovà (1754–1824).2 The requiem had not been composed specifically for this occasion, however, and quite probably Rosetti himself heard of the performance only at a later point – if at all. The performance in Prague was one of a whole string of performances that the piece enjoyed in the late eighteenth century and that attest to the importance of this setting of the funeral mass and to the recognition it received from the moment it was composed (1776); indeed, this piece was the main cause of Rosetti’s fame.
The requiem had originally been composed for a death that caused great sorrow at the court where Rosetti had been employed since 1773 as kapellmeister: Aged only nineteen, the Princess Maria Theresa von Oettingen-Wallerstein, née Princess von Thurn und Taxis, had died on 9 March 1776 during the birth of her first child. Prince Kraft Ernst (1748–1802) subsequently requested Rosetti to compose a requiem for the funeral ceremony that was planned for 26 March. Reserving time for rehearsals, this left Rosetti barely two weeks to complete all the obligatory parts of a funeral mass.3 Rosetti went about his task pragmatically. There is no Benedictus or Agnus Dei; these were probably supplemented from the prince’s music library. And it is quite possible that for the appealing, colorfully orchestrated
solo aria Cur faciem tuam abscondis (Job 13,24), which replaced the traditional Domine Jesu Christe, the composer resorted to an offertory he had written sometime earlier. But he also made cuts in some of the sections of which the complex movements are traditionally formed; thus, for example, Rosetti dispensed with one of the two Kyrie eleison settings and large sections of the sequence.
The requiem is a work of extraordinary charm and beauty, lacking all somberness. There is one gesture by the composer that is particularly touching even today: In the Introit, the choir’s plea for eternal rest is commonly addressed to the deceased in general, but here the “dona ei requiem” aims directly at the princess: “Lord, grant her eternal rest”. The requiem soon aroused interest far beyond Wallerstein, and despite the incomplete setting of the mass ordinary the piece was widely disseminated. In the year of composition, a first – only slightly altered – copy was entered into the Regensburg archives of the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis. Still in Rosetti’s lifetime, missing parts were complemented, some of them using the original material and some being newly composed. The resulting five (possibly six) versions are preserved today in libraries in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France.
While most of the later additions contain information about local music traditions and historical routes of dissemination, the Prague version is particularly important due to its closeness to the composer and his environment.
We do not know whether Rosetti sent the performance materials to his friend from student days on his own initiative or whether Strobach ordered it from Wallerstein, but we can clearly see that Rosetti had revised the piece at an earlier time and on this occasion made further revisions. The minor but significant alterations in the Quantus tremor, and even more those in the last bar of the Lacrymosa, point to a working manuscript and thus to the piece’s genesis. The altered progression of the parts in the Osanna fugue, which deviate from the version in the Wallerstein and Regensburg sources, was adopted by the copyist without any corrections and thus probably reflects the readings found in Rosetti’s revised manuscript. The source transmitted in Prague provides valuable clues (to be pursued further) regarding the addition of movements from works by other composers that Rosetti himself may have carried out: In the parts for the trumpets and tympani copied in Wallerstein, the Lacrymosa is followed by an Amen (E-flat Major, Allabreve); this may lead to the identification of a movement adopted from a different context. As the modifications of the scoring are already contained in the source from Prague, we may conclude that they go back to Rosetti himself. In Prague, the solo soprano takes over the offertory originally attributed to the solo tenor. The clarinet, which formerly acted only as a substitute, was doubled; the two instruments now take over – suitably transposed – the parts of the “Tailles de hautbois” (Rosetti: „Talie“, in F). The oboes are omitted,4 and the clarini are now called “tromba”.
The Benedictus and the Agnus Dei appear not to have originated from Wallerstein; Strobach apparently filled in these missing movements on Wallerstein paper. Whether these were actually composed by Strobach, has to remain open for the time being. Both do without the pairs of Taille de hautbois and flutes. The dominating instruments are the clarinets and horns. Stylistically, these movements clearly differ from those by Rosetti, but they are of high musical quality and render the requiem performable. In the Agnus Dei, Strobach takes up Rosetti’s gesture: The repeated “dona ei requiem” can now be related to Mozart.
In recent years, Antonio Rosetti’s Requiem Murray H15 was discussed several times in the pertinent literature. In 2008 a CD recording was released. The present critical edition intends to provide easy access to the music both for scholars and performers. It is based on a microfilm of the manuscript from the collection of Johann (Jan) Joseph Strobach (shelf no. LRRA, Loreto music archive, inv. no. 194, part of The Lobkowicz Library and Archives, Nelahozeves Castle, Czech Republic). Unfortunately, direct access to the original source was not possible. In addition, the two manuscripts of version A from the year 1776 were consulted. The first, a set of parts prepared by Antonio Rosetti, Joseph Nagel (1751/52–1804) and others, belongs to the music collection of the Princes of Oettingen-Wallerstein and is kept today at the Augsburg University Library (D HR [D Au]: III 4 ½ 20 989, hereinafter: D HR). The second is a score prepared by Baron Theodor von Schacht (1749–1823), shelf-no. D Rtt: Rosetti 24 (score), hereinafter Rtt. Its readings follow those transmitted in a set of parts copied by Franz Xaver Link (1759–1825), which was also consulted for this edition (shelf-no. D Rtt: Rosetti 24 [parts]). Both sources are now kept at the Fürst Thurn und Taxis Hofbibliothek zu Regensburg. The editor is grateful to all these institutions for granting permission to use their sources for this publication. Thanks are also due to Prof. Dr. Sterling E. Murray for supplying the microfilm of the version transmitted in Prague.
Berlin, spring 2020
Translated by Stephanie Wollny