Described often as the most heart-wrenching music piece in the world, Mozart’s “Requiem” became a popular choice for choirs and ensembles looking to memorialize the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The year after the terrorist attacks, a group organized a “rolling Requiem” whereby groups in every time zone would perform the piece around the world. Last weekend, the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus performed the piece in honor of the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

This weekend, the early-music group Bach Collegium San Diego will perform the piece in a couple of concerts on Friday and Saturday. (This afternoon, you can attend an open rehearsal at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

In addition to its reputation as an emotional masterpiece, the piece teems with rumors and myths, partly because the composer left the piece unfinished when he died in 1791. The Union-Tribune’s Jim Chute asked Collegium director Ruben Valenzuela to look at some of those myths in a piece posted today.

The stage play (currently onstage at The Old Globe) that became the film “Amadeus” perpetuated one of those dubious stories, that a jealous contemporary of Mozart’s, Antonio Salieri, poisoned him.

Here’s Valenzuela’s response to the notion Salieri “poisoned Mozart but kept him alive long enough so he could dictate the Requiem to him on his deathbed:”

Although not substantiated by historical facts, the idea that Mozart was poisoned by a jealous rival began to circulate immediately after Mozart’s death. This sensationalist idea provides the dramatic fuel for the stage play and the later Oscar-nominated movie. Although all but impossible to completely disprove, medical evidence and contemporary analysis shows it is highly unlikely.

And, to the idea that anyone besides Mozart composed the rest of the works credited to him, here’s Valenzuela:

Scholars, however, are extremely dubious that, the Requiem notwithstanding, anyone besides Mozart wrote Mozart. … It’s difficult to imitate genius.

We featured Valenzuela’s thoughts earlier this year on the debate over playing centuries-old music on historically accurate instruments, as compared to playing them in a modern style.

Here’s a video of the “Requiem,” performed by the Vienna Symphony. (The video cuts off partway through the piece, but you can watch part two here.)

Have you had any memorable experiences performing or listening to the “Requiem”? Leave a note below or on Facebook.

I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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