Mozart’s Kyrie in D Minor: An Enigma

The impetus for Mozart’s Kyrie in D minor, K.341 remains a fascinating enigma. Initially, it was believed that Mozart completed this sublime choral fragment in Munich in early 1781. The occasion for which it would have been composed remains unclear. The full instrumentation (which includes two clarinets) suggests that the Kyrie may have been intended for a large-scale Mass which remained unfinished. Sketches from the composer’s final years (1787-91) show that he was in the process of writing such a work. Before the onset of terminal illness, Mozart had hoped to be appointed Kapellmeister of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Kyrie eleison (“Lord have mercy”) is a pleading prayer. The tone of Mozart’s Kyrie is ominous and haunting. In the shadows of monolithic harmonic pillars, trembling chromatic lines emerge in the strings. For Mozart, the key of D minor had supernatural connotations. This is the key of the  Requiem, the foreboding Piano Concerto No. 20, and the ghostly Commendatore Scene from Don Giovanni.


Featured Image: “The Last Judgment,” Michelangelo

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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