The Oratorio Chorale and the Bowdoin Chorus performed Mozart’s Requiem in Studzinski Recital Hall Nov. 22 and 23 in three sold-out performances.Director Emily Isaacson conducted a chorus of nearly 100 singers and 45 orchestra players ranging in age and experience from high school and college to longtime members of both choruses and professional musicians. Soloists included soprano Estelí Gomez, alto Virginia Warnken, tenor Eric Dudley and bass Dashon Burton, all members of the GRAMMY-winning Roomful of Teeth. Instrumentalists for the Requiem included players from the Bowdoin Orchestra, the Maine Chamber Ensemble, the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, and the Mozart Mentors Orchestra.

Through the centuries the much beloved Requiem has been shrouded in mystery, with questions about the person who commissioned the work, and more importantly, who really composed the piece.In her notes for the Oratorio Chorale’s Requiem program, Emily Isaacson points out that there really was an unknown man who commissioned Mozart to compose a Requiem mass — the mass for the dead. Despite what the 1979 stage play and 1984 film showed, it is more likely that Mozart knew the identity of his patron. Although the stranger did not reveal his identity, Mozart learned that it was a Viennese Count whose wife had recently died.

Nevertheless, letters show that Mozart (who was quite ill in the fall of 1791) believed the Requiem was destined to be his own funeral piece. As it turned out, he died in November of that year, leaving the Requiem unfinished. Mozart’s wife Constanze eventually turned to his favorite pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who completed the work for performance. Although speculation continues about how much Mozart wrote and what he might have done differently, and various editions may be chosen for performance, the uncertainties around this Requiem add to its mystery without diminishing its appeal.