Mozart’s Last Composition
Mozart, the celebrated composer, was extremely apprehensive of death, and at all times he laboured under profound melancholy. The circumstances attending the composition of his last piece were remarkable. One day, when his spirits were unusually depressed, a stranger, of a tall dignified appearance, was introduced. His manners were grave and impressive. He told Mozart that he came to request he would compose a solemn mass, as the requiem for the soul of a friend recently lost, and whose memory he was desirous of commemorating by this solemn service.
Mozart undertook the task, and engaged to have it completed in a month. The stranger immediately paid a hundred ducats for the piece, and departed. This visit, somehow, had a serious effect on the mind of Mozart. He brooded over it for some time, then, suddenly calling for writing materials, began to compose with extraordinary ardour. Severe application to his studies brought on fainting fits, and failing health compelled him to suspend his work.
“I am writing this requiem for myself,” said he abruptly; “it will serve for my funeral service.”
This impression never left him. At the expiration of the month the mysterious stranger appeared, and demanded the requiem.
“I have found it impossible,” said Mozart,” to keep my word; the work has interested me more than I had expected; besides I have extended it beyond my first design.
I shall require another month to finish it.”
The stranger made no objection, but, observing that for this additional trouble it was but just to increase the price, laid down fifty ducats more, and promised to return at the time appointed. Astonished at the stranger’s proceeding, Mozart ordered a servant to follow the singular person, to find out who he was. The servant, however, lost sight of him, and returned unable to communicate the desired information. Mozart, persuaded that the stranger was a messenger from the other world sent to warn him that his end was fast approaching, applied himself with fresh zeal to the requiem, and, in spite of the exhausted state of his body and mind, completed it before the expiration of the month. On the day named the stranger returned, but Mozart was no more.
From “The mysteries of all nations: rise & progress of superstition, laws against and trials of witches, ancient & modern delusions” by James Grant (1880)
The illustration is “Mozart composing his Requiem” by William James Grant (1829-1866). Digital copy of this painting is courtesy of Visipix