Thieving Mozart

First, listen to this opening:

Then, listen to this one:

That first clip is the Introitus from Mozart’s Requiem, composed in 1791. And the second is Handel’s “The Ways of Zion Do Mourn.” From 1737. Hear anything you recognize? There are a few connecting notes that appear in the first and not the second, and a bit of a tempo difference, as well. But they’re remarkably similar, no? (OK, fine. My title’s pure, unadulterated click-bait. I have guilt. Not enough to make me change it, of course, but I’m not made of stone. Honestly. There could be tears.)

In all seriousness, I don’t consider it thieving. Not really. I consider it “homaging” at worst. And I’m very much inclined to say that Mozart takes Handel’s theme and makes it his own in an extraordinarily effective and respectful way. By the time we hit the two-minute mark in the Introitus and the solo kicks in, we’re unmistakably planted in Mozartian territory. So what if he used a bit-O-Handel as a launching pad?

I did not come up with this comparison myself. Even though I have (subsequently) discovered it to be a fairly well-documented example of musical homaging/borrowing, I doubt I’d have recognized it unaided; I’m just not that familiar with the original funeral anthem. In fact, this might well have been the first time I’ve ever listened to HWV 264 in its entirety. I am grateful to Dr. Lorenzo Candelaria for pointing out the similarity during a lecture on the importance of analyzing Mozart’s Requiem as a liturgical work rather than as a concert-hall piece. Which is a whole ‘nother wonderful world of musical investigation.

BONUS: The Requiem’s Kyrie and “With His Stripes” from Handel’s Messiah. (Also, why is there a Hipster Mozart meme? WHY?)

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • pianogirl88

    Very interesting….I’d never heard the two back to back so I could hear the comparison! I must say that thoughts of “plagiarism” have probably kept me from doing a lot of composing….”is this my original tune, or did I hear it someplace else?” According to a conductor friend, Allegri’s Miserere was first thought to have been composed by Mozart because he heard it at the Vatican when he was 14 and copied it, almost note for note, at a time when it was forbidden to be performed outside of the sacred walls. So, I don’t find it strange that composers would hear bits and pieces of music by famous people and incorporate some of it in their own works.


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