David Whitwell

Symphony Nr. 2, “Sinfonia da Requiem”

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Symphony Nr. 2, "Sinfonia da Requiem," by David Whitwell. I decided to write a Requiem for Mozart, who did not have one performed when he died. The performance of this Sinfonia da Requiem has always had a strong impact on the audience, especially in concerts throughout Europe.

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Product Description

Sym­pho­ny Nr. 2, “Sin­fo­nia da Requiem”
David Whitwell (1937–)

Date: 1988
Instru­men­ta­tion: Con­cert Band
Dura­tion: 31:00
Lev­el: 5

Recording

This live per­for­mance by the Uni­ver­si­ty of North­ern Iowa Wind Sym­pho­ny, Ronald John­son, Con­duc­tor, was giv­en on 22 March 1996, in the Great Hall of the Franz Liszt Con­ser­va­to­ry in Budapest.

Notes on Whitwell, Symphony Nr. 2

In 1968 my wife and I moved to Vien­na in order for me to study con­duct­ing at the famous Akademie für Musik. We both felt that if we were going to live in Vien­na we want­ed to live in Vien­na, right in the mid­dle and not out in the 25th dis­trict. We were for­tu­nate to find a small apart­ment on Kärt­ner­strasse just one block and a half from the great cathe­dral, Ste­fans­dom, which is the heart of the city.

From the first moment I stepped into this apart­ment I had a strong feel­ing of the pres­ence of Mozart. Of course I imme­di­ate­ly attrib­uted this to the basic excite­ment of being, on my first trip to Europe, in the city of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler. But this feel­ing of the pres­ence of Mozart in this apart­ment con­tin­ued for the entire year. Of course when my mind was oth­er­wise involved in per­haps con­vers­ing with my wife, or study­ing scores, etc., the “Mozart Effect” was not appar­ent. But in moments of reflec­tion the feel­ing returned. It was always there.

Twen­ty years lat­er, in 1988, I read a new small book by Rob­bins Lan­don called The Last Year of Mozart’s Life. In this book he had repro­duced a map of cen­tral Vien­na dat­ing from about the time of Mozart’s death. In these old Euro­pean cities the basic blocks of build­ing remain the same but the streets tend to change names over the cen­turies. It was, there­fore, only when I saw this old­er map that I real­ized that my apart­ment was in the same build­ing and on the same floor as the apart­ment in which Mozart died! The read­er will under­stand the utter sense of shock as I thought back on those feel­ings of 1968. Indeed for some weeks I had the cir­cum­stances of the death of Mozart con­stant­ly on my mind.

To free myself from this obses­sion I decid­ed, as a kind of exor­cism, to write a Requiem for Mozart, who did not have one per­formed when he died. For­tu­nate­ly I was on sab­bat­i­cal the Spring of 1988 and could devote myself com­plete­ly to the com­po­si­tion of this my sec­ond sym­pho­ny, the Sin­fo­nia da Requiem. There are a num­ber of curi­ous things about this work, begin­ning with the fact that the act of com­po­si­tion was almost with­out a sense of labor. Indeed some move­ments came to me faster than I could write them down. As an inex­pe­ri­enced com­pos­er I found this rather star­tling but I attribute it to the fact that my feel­ings were so unusu­al­ly focused. It is when the feel­ings are not engaged that com­po­si­tion becomes dif­fi­cult.

The per­for­mance of this Sin­fo­nia da Requiem has always had a strong impact on the audi­ence, espe­cial­ly in con­certs through­out Europe. I attribute this to the music draw­ing upon the lis­ten­ers’ own love of Mozart and thoughts of his ear­ly death. Indeed, on more than one occa­sion I have turned to face the audi­ence at the end of a per­for­mance of this work in Europe to find numer­ous audi­ence mem­bers cry­ing.

David Whitwell