Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Death

Music History Monday: What a Way to Go

9-11; a somber day for us all. A day for reflection, contemplation and yes, a day to grieve. Far more often than not, this post is about celebration: celebrating the life of a musician or some great (or small) event in music history. If we chose to, we could celebrate the lives and music of two wonderful composers today. The great French composer and harpsichordist François Couperin died in Paris, at the age of 65, 284 years ago today, on September 11, 1733. The wonderful Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt was born 82 years ago today, on September 11, 1935. However, I’ve chosen, today, not to celebrate but rather, to observe some particular deaths: stupid deaths, unnecessary and premature deaths. A grim topic but not an uninteresting one, given that death is one of the very few things each of us will eventually have in common. The cue for today’s post was the birth, 104 years ago today, of Betty Stone in Norwich, Connecticut. Ms. Stone was an alto and a member of the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera. We read from an article that appeared on page 44 of the New York Times on May 2, 1977: “CLEVELAND, May 1—A […]

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What Killed Mozart? The Real Story

Mozart died 222 years ago today at the not-at-all ripe age of 35 years, 10 months, and 8 days. In yesterday’s post I described some of the conspiracy theories that have accumulated around Mozart’s death like guano on seaside rocks. Today we move on to some of the medical diagnoses that have been proposed to explain his untimely death. What killed Mozart? According to his death certificate, Mozart died of “heated miliary fever” which was eighteenth century for “haven’t a clue.” A contemporary newspaper claimed that he died of “dropsy of the heart,” a swelling of the body due to water retention as a result of kidney failure. So, kidney failure has also been blamed for Mozart’s death, a failure that could have been brought on by a streptococcal infection (strep throat), viral hepatitis, scarlet fever, or some other viral illness. According to Dr. Peter J. Davies in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (1983), Mozart died from Henoch-Schonlein syndrome, another secondary illness brought on by a viral infection. In fact, some 150 separate diagnoses have been proposed to explain Mozart’s death. According to Dr. Jan Hirschmann of Puget Sound Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Seattle, Mozart died […]

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