The music is from selections of Mozart's Requiem Mass, K. 626, the last work he ever wrote which he never completed (It was completed, however, by his pupil Franz Sussmayer; what you see in the movie Amadeus is not fact). It is one of the most famous Requiems of all time. So today, as we celebrate Mozart's birthday which occurred 257 years ago, we are reminded of his great enduring works as they are used to promote sales at JC Penney. Sadly, this is not the first time a requiem mass has been used to promote a particular store or brand. The Dies Irae from Verdi's Requiem has been used in car commercials.
I doubt anyone realizes what the text says. If they understood Latin and their audience understood Latin, maybe they would hesitate. The text of the Dies Irae was written in the middle ages perhaps between 1200 and 1300. The traditional author is Thomas de Celano though others have been suggested such as Bernard of Clairvaux. The Latin Text is a seuquence hymn which is centered around the day of judgment.
The text reads:
Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeculum in favilla
teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus
Quando iudex est venturus
Cuncta stricte discussurus.
The Day of Wrath, that day
When the earth is consumed in ash
As David prophesied with the Sibyl.
How great an earthquake there will be
When the judge is seated
about to reveal all hidden things.
I doubt this is the case, but if JC Penney had done any bit of homework, could they conclude that perhaps it is a bit over the top to play a hymn of the last judgment and equivocate it with missing a sale? Again, I doubt it.
One thing I find interesting even more is that as much as many Christian churches are seeking to incorporate the tunes of the world into their version of "heavenly" worship, the advertisement community largely looks to the classical world, and especially its religious music, to sell its wares. I'm sure Mozart would be most relieved to know that his music written for the church was now being used to promote a store. Is it any wonder then that the youth of this country are confused when it comes to "church music?" The church music they are hearing is what they are hearing on TV and hearing on radio.
I really doubt that the persons behind this commercial put any more thought into it than thinking about a work that is, even by today's musically illiterate population, still known and that it is in minor key, conveys the sense of depression that so many people feel whenever they miss a sale. But, does anyone remember when good church music was actually used in the church?
Happy birthday, Mozart. A fine tribute to your great contributions to mankind.