Major Work: This "Haas" To Go Down In The History Books

Georg Friedrich Haas. by Marissa Grill '17

On April 25 in Bailey Hall the Chorus and Glee Club joined forces to perform the “Seven Soundscapes on the Unfinished Fragments of W.A. Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor” by Georg Friederich Haas. Conductor Michel Galante led the choirs, accompanied by members of the Argento Chamber Ensemble, local musicians, and student players. 

The Requiem is Mozart’s last piece. In 1791, he passed away while composing it, completing the full vocal and orchestral parts for only the opening movement. Since then, many composers have tried to finish Mozart’s work. Most commonly, ensembles turn to the completion by Franz Süssmayr. 

Haas chose to take a different approach. Rather than fill in notes that Mozart might’ve written, he included only the music that Mozart finished and interjected seven “soundscapes”. Haas designed these interludes to represent the incomplete nature of the piece and Mozart’s frustration over his reputation and life’s work. Five of the seven soundscapes include text from a letter to Mozart begrudgingly offering him a menial position that he was overqualified for. Haas selected certain phrases from the piece and instructs the choirs to repeat them, haunting the audience just as these words haunted Mozart.

The soundscapes posed several challenges for the groups. Robert Issacs worked with the Chorus and Glee Club to clarify the complex rhythms, unpleasant note clusters, and the unorthodox structure of the movements. The unusual nature of the piece caught the attention of the community. Notably, the Ithaca Times published an article highlighting the history of the piece and our conductors.

The concert was well attended and received a long and enthusiastic standing ovation. Haas introduced the major work and listened from the audience. After the concert he expressed his delight at the performance.

Opinions on the piece are mixed, but all felt the feelings of accomplishment after the performance.