A second impactful event in Mozart’s life was his entrance into Freemasonry, a hugely influential society of which there were by the mid-1780s seven active lodges in Vienna alone. Mozart was raised to the Third Degree early in 1785, and thereafter composed a number of pieces for use in the lodge’s ceremonies, even up to the month before he died; in his enthusiasm for Masonry he encouraged both his father and Franz Joseph Haydn to enter the fraternity. There is also evidence, in my opinion, that even his Requiem, although not completed in his hand at his death, has Masonic aspects.
A Masonic lodge meeting of Mozart's day, once thought to portray Mozart's own lodge. Oil painting (1789), Wienmuseum Vienna.
Mozart composed Maurerische Trauermusik (Masonic Funeral Music, K.477) in 1785 on the occasion of the deaths of two fellow Masons, Count Georg August von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a member of the Lodge “The Three Eagles”, and Count Franz Esterhazy von Galantha, of the Lodge “Crowned Hope”. The work was performed at the Masonic Lodge of Mourning on November 17 of that year. A feature of Masonic ritual, according to Jacques Henri, musicologist and Mason, is ceremonial procession; in the course of the Masonic Funeral Music there is a familiar rhythm strongly reminiscent of the “procession” passage in the second movement of the Sinfonia Concertante.
Another feature of the composition is a passage set as a cantus firmus—a simple melody in longer notes of equal value over an active accompaniment and bass. This tune is a Psalm Tone, structured in two phrases, and commonly used in settings of the Requiem Mass liturgy in the “Te decit hymnus” (“To you a hymn said…”), a part of the Introit. Shortly afterward there is another cantus, not a Psalm tone, but like the Psalm tone it is structured in two phrases. This second cantus is perhaps a melody known by Austrian Masons, but to my knowledge has not been identified. Finally, at the end of the dark, deeply moving music of this expressive dirge, the last chord astonishes us as a moment of warmth, light, and peace, in keeping with Masonic teaching about the meaning of death as a transition to another life.
Mozart's Maurerische Trauermusik, K. 477 London Symphony Orchestra, Istvan Kertesz, conductor