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Mozart's "Requiem,' true to form

Larry Kent is conducting Mozart's Requiem the way the work might have been heard when it was composed at the end of the 18th century.

"We've got 19 singers and 26 instrumentalists," said Kent, music director of Florida Pro Musica, which is giving two concerts of the masterpiece next week.

"Our soloists will be singing from the chorus, not from the stage. Most of the solos are quartets. It's a nice contrast between the full chorus tutti and the solo quartet movements."

Mozart's Requiem is one of the great mysteries of musical history. It was integral to the plot of Amadeus, with a stranger in black commissioning the work and giving the movie a fine melodramatic hook on which to hang the finale. The story is basically true, and Mozart might actually have believed he was composing the music for his own death.

It is a funeral mass whose most famous modern use was at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, but there isn't much that speaks of death in the music. As with anything by Mozart, it is full of vibrancy.

Kent thinks the Requiem benefits from keeping the musical forces lean. The last time it was performed in the area by professional forces, it was done by the full Florida Orchestra and Master Chorale.

"The biggest difference that a listener will notice is the articulation of fast passages," he said. "You'll hear the individual parts more. It sort of gives it a chamber music feel. All the threads of the fabric are there for you to see and hear and examine a little better."

The Requiem is one of the great unfinished works, its composition cut short by Mozart's death in 1791, leaving the mass to be completed by his pupil, Sussmayr. Though several of the movements were written from scratch after Mozart died _ the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei _ the work doesn't have a particularly disjointed feel.

"The research on the Requiem changes practically weekly," said Kent, who chose to use the Sussmayr version rather than one of the alternatives that have been developed by scholars in recent years.

"A lot of the questions concern orchestration. Mozart sketched out voice parts and bass, for example, and Sussmayer went back and orchestrated it as best he could, using as a model the portions Mozart completed. The advantage to the Sussmayr is that he was an 18th century composer who knew the practices of the time."

Also on the program are Grieg's Elegaic Melodies and Donizetti's Trio for flute, bassoon and piano. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tampa. Tickets are $5-$20. Call (813) 258-4226.

MORE MUSIC _ Soprano Priscilla Bagley of Clearwater gives a recital, with pianist Margaret Douglas, at 8 tonight at the Palladium Theater. They perform works of Verdi, Handel, Puccini, Faure and Mahler. Tickets are $5 and $10.

The Florida Orchestra's final masterworks program of the season is this weekend, with a pair of pivotal early 20th century works on the agenda, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Strauss' Alpine Symphony. Jahja Ling conducts in three performances.

The exploration of music by the late Frank Zappa continues this summer in St. Petersburg. Stemming from the successful collaboration between the orchestra and Bogus Pomp, a Zappa repertory band, the Persuasions have been booked to perform music from their new CD, Frankly A Capella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa, on Aug. 5 at Mahaffey Theater. Bogus Pomp will share the bill.

DANCE _ Take your pick, modern dance or ballet. Moving Current, a choreographic collective, presents new work by Scott Crawford, Stacee Lanz and others in performances at 8 tonight and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday in Theater 1 on the University of South Florida Tampa campus. Tickets are $5 and $10. Call (813) 237-0216.

Excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote and Dracula are on the program by the Chamber Ballet, featuring Andre Ustinov and Elena Martinson, at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Palladium Theater. Tickets are $8-$12. Call (727) 520-0250.