Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Mozart death

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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Mozartian Conspiracy Theories

Tomorrow, December 5, marks the 222nd anniversary of the Death of Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, who died in Vienna at the age of 35 on December 5, 1791. Few historical events have been subjected to as much speculation as the cause of Mozart’s death. So many different theories and stories have been suggested over the years that it’s impossible to discuss (or refute) them all. So let’s examine the facts as best as we can and then discuss a few of the alternative explanations for Mozart’s death. First, “the plot.” During the summer of 1791, Mozart was anonymously commissioned to write a Requiem mass. More than any other single element, it is this fact that served to create the myth of Mozart’s murder: “An uncanny messenger had delivered a summons from the underworld to prepare a doomed hero for an appointment in Samarra.” Near the end of her life, Mozart’s widow Constanze purportedly told Mozart researchers Vincent and Mary Novello that: “Some six months before his death he was possessed with the idea of his being poisoned – ‘I know I must die’, he exclaimed, ‘someone has given me aqua toffana [a mixture of arsenic and lead] and has […]

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