For the month of October, the #ClassicsaDay team (of which I’m a part), decided to go with a Halloween theme. The idea is to share works marked in some way with the composer’s demise. It can be the last piece a composer completed before death, or one left incomplete at death.
For my part, I chose to narrow the focus a little bit. Not all incomplete works were deathbed projects. Schubert, for example, abandoned his “Unfinished” symphony six years before his death. For my contributions, I focussed on the last piece a composer wrote — whether it was completed or not.
From famous last words to #FamousLastWorks. Here are my posts for week 1.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Requiem in D minor, K. 626
Mozart only fully completed the first movement, Requiem aeternum, before his death, although he sketched out the entire work. His student Franz Xaver Süssmayr completed the Requiem so it could be delivered to its commissioner.
Ludwig van Beethoven – Op. 130 string quartet new finale
Beethoven completed his 13th string quartet in 1827. The final movement, the Große Fuge completely overshadows the rest of the work. Contemporaries called the finale “incomprehensible,” “inaccessible” and even “Armaggedon.”
Beethoven bowed to pressure from his publisher and wrote a new, lighter finale for the quartet. It was the last work completed by Beethoven before his death. The Große Fuge was then published as a separate, stand-alone work.
Franz Schubert – Winterreise, Op. 89 D.911
Schubert wrote the first part of this song cycle in 1827, and the second in October 1828 – a month before his death. He was making final revisions and correcting proofs on his deathbed. The final song, “Der Leiermann” was the last he worked on. “Curious old fellow, shall I go with you? When I sing my songs, will you play your hurdy-gurdy too?”
Franz Joseph Haydn – String Quartet in D minor, Op. 103, Hob.III:83
The Op. 103 quartet was the last piece Haydn worked on. Though he died in 1809, Haydn’s health had so deteriorated that after 1803 he could no longer concentrate to compose. He had completed only the first two movements of the D minor quartet when his strength gave out.
Arnold Schoenberg – Modern Psalms, Op. 50c
In 1951 Schoenberg drafted his own texts based on the Psalms. The intent was to write a series of short, sacred works. Only the “Modern Psalm” was completed at the time of his death.