Theory III: MUSI 2311
Dr. Brian Bondari
December 13, 2010
The Analysis of Mozart’s “Dies Irae”
The final composition of Mozart, The Requiem mass in D Minor, containing “Dies Irae,” is known to be one of his most powerful and commended works. This piece was composed in 1791 while Mozart was, unfortunately, on his death bed. However, he was unable to complete it so it was then passed on to his assistant and later finished by this man. The choral work can be very dark, for it concerns the Day of Wrath, when God will return to this earth and pass judgment on all creatures that remain, either granting them salvation or perpetual damnation to hell. This theme alone provides one with fear, thus it can be assumed that even before one listens to the mass that it will be filled with elements that evoke fear, terror, worry, and an overall sense of emotion. Mozart does just this. He portrays the “Day of Wrath” as one that no one would want to be a part of, or witness.
The “Dies Irae” by Mozart is deemed profound because of its interdependent relationship between the music and the text of the piece. In the beginning of the piece it explodes with extreme force that is later intensified by deviating in tonality throughout. Mozart exploits the tone of the work by regarding it as a penultimate out-pouring of wrath, incorporating brisk indefinite interludes in the piano and chromatic passages in the choral sections. These details give way to a piece that elevates a sense of uneasiness for those who are questioning their eternal judgment. It also creates the feeling of imminent danger and/or catastrophe. Mozart will also dupe the listener by briefly modulating to a new key, or tonal center, that is recognized for a brief few measures, and yet, will almost instantaneously dissolve into more stormy ideas surrounding the Day of Wrath.
In order to create this feeling grave uncertainty and fear, Mozart utilizes multiple borrowed chords, secondary...