The clue is in the title—”… and the candle went out!”—and this fourth and final episode of Requiem for Mozart, broadcast on 10 December 1991, is irrevocably drawn to Mozart’s impending end. It opens, however, in the spring of 1781, and an atmosphere of levity, the composer buoyed up on the success of, first, Le nozze di Figaro, and then Don Giovanni. Nonetheless, almost immediately these successes are militated against by the combination of an increasing sense of ‘difficulty’ in Mozart’s music (from the perspective of both performer and listener) in addition to his steadily worsening financial state. Of this, the episode recounts in detail Mozart’s well-known begging letters to friend and fellow freemason Michael Puchberg (although the drama almost implies Mozart’s reason for joining the Masonic lodge was that it might aid his financial situation), who replies with kind generosity.
In order to try to improve his desperate state, Mozart sets out on a number of tours, including Dresden and Leipzig, but neither amounted to anything substantial, and upon his return, he falls ill. Things improve; a further opera, Così fan tutte achieves real success and temporarily alleviates Mozart’s woes. Depression, though, is an omnipresent undercurrent, exacerbated by separation from his wife Constanze, who was away in Baden for her health. A fleeting reference to Süssmayr brings the end in sight, and perhaps the most famous episode in Mozart’s life, the anonymous commission for the Requiem, which he would never finish. He composes and conducts the first performances of his final opera, La clemenza di Tito in the summer of 1791, before illness sets in for good. For these final months of his life, declining health and the Requiem went hand-in-hand, lightened only by the enjoyable first performances of Die Zauberflöte, which met with overwhelming success. But, in both the drama and Mozart’s life, it’s the Requiem that dominates, and the closing scene depicts Mozart’s pathetic attempt to compose the Lacrymosa, with the help of friends to sing the choir parts. His strength ebbs away, and Constanze’s overwhelmingly moving words form an exquisite epitaph.