Mozart's last masterpiece

Paul McCreesh, Artistic Direction
Gabrieli Consort & Players (London)


Recorded on 16 July 2016 in the Church in Saanen

Menuhin Memory Concert – Mozart’s Requiem

It’s always an extraordinary experience to see the British conductor Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort & Players perform. However, the two concerts on July 15 and 16 in the church of Saanen even added an additional dimension: We were invited to remember the legendary evenings in the summer of 1957, when one of the great adventures in classical music began: Back then four outstanding musicians came together: Maurice Gendron (cello), Benjamin Britten (piano and harpsichord), the tenor Peter Pears and of course Yehudi Menuhin, the new festival’s spiritus rector and founding father.

On the 15th of July, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Choir, Consort & Players performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in the presence of several members of the Menuhin family.


What hasn’t been said, written, speculated, thought and even made up… when it comes to Mozart’s Requiem? One thing is certain: The anonymous commissioner was no messenger from afterlife (as Mozart was said to believe). It was no less a person than Count Franz von Walsegg who intended to pass off the masterpiece as his own composition. Mozart, who was taken ill, only managed to finish the first two sections. After his death, his widow Constanze, took charge of the process: She saw to it that the Requiem got completed and arranged for Mozart‘s student and assistant Franz-Xaver Süssmayr to deliver the finished composition to the (at the time) anonymous commissioner.

Despite great efforts by the most notable scholars, it is nearly impossible to work out, to what extend Mozart, realising that he would die soon, had prepared Süssmayr for this monumental task. Only in 1799 Constanze discovered the true identity of the commissioner (Mozart died 1791). Nevertheless, she refused to acknowledge that other composer than Mozart (Süssmayr and before him for a short period of time Joseph Leopold Eybler) had worked on the Requiem in order to promote her late husband’s fame (and to receive money from the work’s performance and publication).

Paul McCreesh uses Robert D. Levin’s version from 1991. The American musicologist created a whole new edition, reconstructing parts from Mozart’s sketches and in general correcting Süssmeyer’s sometimes clumsy orchestration

Paul McCreesh

Artist Description

Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort & Players embody the best «authentic» interpretation of old music. And yet, during our conversation on occasion of his performance of Haydn's «The Seasons» at the church of Saanen, he confessed that he found such labels rather debatable. «To be honest with you, I never saw myself as a specialist for certain kind of music.» McCreesh compared himself with a free electron, moving, without being held back, from one style to another. «Some critiques would say that this attitude equals professional suicide. I, however, am all for an intuitive approach to music. Love is always more important than intellect; I'd rather leave this field to the great musicologists and their research. To me there are only two kinds of music: Good music and bad music.»

More than just a conductor: He re-invents music

When studying Paul McCreesh's discography (most of it is released by Deutsche Grammophon while he recently started his own label «Winged Lion») and following his many tours all around the world, you will find that there is hardly any «bad» music. We fondly remember his concerts at the Gstaad Menuhin Festival: Mozart's Requiem in 2016, Handel's Messiah in 2017, Haydn's The Seasons in 2018 - all of them were outstanding performances. And they all had a very personal note that turned an ordinary interpretation into a unique masterpiece. Let's remember how McCreesh, by re-writing the English text of Haydn's The Seasons, re-created this fantastic masterpiece in order to rehabilitating it for the English speaking world. (Baron van Swieten had translated the German libretto into a rather clumsy English for Haydn.) «Whilst a composer would start off from the libretto to write music, I had to take the opposite path; I let the music guide me to find the right words. I wanted the singers to enjoy themselves whilst singing! »
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