Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Franz Von Schober

Scandalous Overtures — Franz Schubert: One Too Many Nights Out

A bunch of years ago I got a call from a non-musician friend who had a question for me. His pastor had given a sermon in which he ascribed Beethoven’s death to syphilis, and never having heard this, my friend wanted to know if Beethoven had indeed died from that dreaded STD. “Heck no,” said I. (In truth, I almost certainly used more colorful language.) I remember telling my friend that Beethoven’s autopsy revealed that he had cirrhosis of the liver; perhaps I even remembered to add that he was also likely suffering from renal papillary necrosis, pancreatitis, and possibly even diabetes mellitus. Among the terrible diseases of the nineteenth century, two stick out for the length of time they took to kill their victims: tuberculosis (“consumption”) and syphilis. That, however, is where the resemblance between these two maladies ends. There was a certain tragic romance associated with tuberculosis in nineteenth century Europe. Dubbed the “White Plague,” TB was thought to imbue its victims with a heightened artistic sensibility. Reflecting on just this, the prototypical Romantic poet Lord George Gordon Byron, wrote, “I should like to die from consumption.” (He didn’t; he died of a septic infection at the age […]

Continue Reading