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Commentary

18 Jan 2005

Mozart's Mass in C Minor Completed

Mozart left comparatively few major (or potentially major) works unfinished, and while it may seem daunting – presumptious even – for another musician to complete these scores, the lure of making an incomplete work whole is clearly too great to resist. Can the results ever be more than hyphenated Mozart? Probably not. A musicologist steeped in Mozart’s musical moves may project what the composer might have done at any point in a work, based on what he did in similar scores, and the completion may sound thoroughly Mozartean. But Mozart often came up with solutions that are completely surprising. Part of what made him Mozart – in fact, part of what makes any great composer great – is unpredictability.

Happy Ending for Unfinished Mozart

By ALLAN KOZINN

Mozart left comparatively few major (or potentially major) works unfinished, and while it may seem daunting - presumptious even - for another musician to complete these scores, the lure of making an incomplete work whole is clearly too great to resist.

Can the results ever be more than hyphenated Mozart? Probably not. A musicologist steeped in Mozart's musical moves may project what the composer might have done at any point in a work, based on what he did in similar scores, and the completion may sound thoroughly Mozartean. But Mozart often came up with solutions that are completely surprising. Part of what made him Mozart - in fact, part of what makes any great composer great - is unpredictability.

Robert D. Levin, a superb pianist and a skilled, conscientious musicologist, has completed or reconstructed several works by Mozart and other composers. His version of the Mozart Requiem is the most satisfying of the many completions of that score. One gets the sense, from both his essays and lectures, that his decisions in these projects are carefully weighed and also that he takes enormous joy in having reached conclusions that are both historically proper and musically enlivening.

His latest reconstruction, unveiled on Saturday evening at the valedictory concert of Carnegie Hall's weeklong Choral Workshop, is a completion of Mozart's Mass in C minor (K. 427), commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the occasion. It was given a robust, soulful performance by the Carnegie Hall Festival Chorus (that is, the participants in the choral workshop) and the Orchestra of St. Luke's, led by Helmuth Rilling, one of the world's most eloquent choral directors.

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