Mozart Death For the past two hundred years, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s death has been shrouded in mystery. Some say his great rival, Antonio Salieri, or the Freemasons murdered him. Others say he was simply exhausted. And some believe he died from sickness. It has been established that Mozart suffered from various illnesses, which no doubt contributed to his death.
But some researchers have concluded that physical and mental exhaustion greatly affected Mozart, and contributed to his early death. These researchers claim that by cramming more work and play into one year than most people did in ten years, Mozart literally”burned himself out”. The constant strain on his body forced it to succumb to the plaguing illnesses that continuously nagged at Mozarts health, and that he otherwise might have been able to withstand. It has been said that Mozart had a peculiar mental and physical lifestyle, and that he was a child who never grew up. Physically, he had childlike energy levels, and worked at an incredibly exhausting pace.
The only way he knew to gain respect was to write music. An early Mozart biographer, Ignaz Arnold wrote, “No need for poison herehis powers were worn out, his constitution destroyed.” He also wrote”what straining of his imagination, what constant wearing-down of his spirit, what excitement of his brain fibers! What continuous sapping of his vital life forces!” In a word: his whole life wasthe consumption of life. History shows us a host of great spirits who burned themselves out. In this passage, he is talking about the destruction of Mozarts “creative energies”. He also wrote about Mozarts physical exhaustion, six piano concertos, one piano quintet, one string quartet, and two sonatas and two sets of variations for piano are listed, as well as a few smaller compositions. This enormous output was not the work of a composer writing in undisturbed peace and seclusion, but of one whose schedule included teaching obligations, as well as all kinds of other distractions of which would have been enough to make an ordinary person nervous.
And all of this is more amazing considering that Mozart was sickly and frail. Despite these setbacks, he almost never slowed his pace. For years, often during sickness, Mozart continued to compose, give performances, travel, teach, and maintain a lively social life. It is clear that Mozart was always on the go, and this could not have been healthy for him, considering his physical state. I believe that his grueling schedule led to exhaustion, which, along with his illness, finally led to his death.
Some people believe that the Freemasons murdered Mozart because he revealed secrets about their organization in his opera, The Magic Flute. After reading a little about this, I found no evidence that the Freemasons had anything to do with Mozarts death. In fact, I discovered that the Masons cared very much for Wolfgang and he for them, as well. Mozart joined the Freemasons in December 1784. He belonged to the lodge called Zur Wohltatigkeit, which translates into Beneficence. Freemasonry was very popular with the intellectually elite during the early 1780s. When Mozart joined the lodge, it consisted of 200 members, led by Master Ignaz von Born.
Master von Born was a scientist, mineralogist, and writer, who Mozart supposedly used as a model for Sarastro, a character in The Magic Flute. Mozarts father, Leopold, and his close friend Joseph Haydn also joined the lodge, no doubt under Mozarts influence. Mozart was a dedicated member of his lodge. He wrote music for their ceremonies, including Maurerische Trauermusik (K.477), which was written for the funeral of two aristocratic members. The heavy symbolism in this piece reveals Mozarts total involvement in the Masonic theories about life and death, and their symbolic relationship to the Master Masonic Degree.
He even used these theories in a letter to his father, who was then on his deathbed. The Freemasons promoted brotherhood and moral principles in their organization and in society as a whole. They looked after their “brethren”, including Mozart. When Mozart was having a financial crisis, at the end of the 1780s, and could not pay his bills, Michael Puchberg, the treasurer of Mozarts lodge, loaned him a considerable amount of money to make it through. Puchberg was a close friend of Mozarts, and after Mozart died, he waited until Mozarts wife, Costanze, had regained her financial stability before asking for repayment. Upon his death, the lodge published a speech held at the funeral ceremony in Mozarts honor.
They also printed one of his last pieces, Kleine Freymaurer-Kantate in score for Costanzes benefit. Antonio Salieri was the court composer in Austria. Shortly after Mozarts death, gossip spread that in great envy, he murdered Mozart. In his last years, Salieri even confessed to killing Mozart, but he was very ill, and his ramblings were influenced by his insanity. I do not believe that Salieri murdered Mozart. In 1823, Salieri, who was then in a mental institution, admitted to the poisoning of Mozart. Word spread around Europe, and many people apparently believed the rumors, including Ludwig van Beethoven.
In his journal, he wrote, “Salieri is very ill again. He is quite deranged. In his ravings he keeps claiming that he is guilty of Mozarts death and made away with him by poison. This is the truth, for he wants to make a confession of it, so it is true again that everything has its reward”. Although there was no real motive for Antonio Salieri to kill Mozart, people soon invented one. For example, the famous Russian writer, Aleksandr Pushkin wrote a one-act play entitled Mozart and Salieri.
In this play, Pushkin suggested that Salieri was overwrought with jealousy because he knew that he could never write as beautiful music as Mozarts. He was angry that God would grant such talent to an “idle hooligan”, and he supposedly poisoned his rival in slow stages. The idea that Salieri killed Mozart out of professional jealousy was so intriguing that it became the most popular theory of Mozarts death. In 1898, another Russian composer, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov turned Pushkins play in to an opera, also titled Mozart and Salieri. This inspired British playwright Peter Shaffer to write Amadeus.
This led to the 1984 film of the same name that I already completed a film critique on. All of these productions depicted Salieri as a weak man with minimal talent, driven by an insane jealousy. The real question is, did Salieri actually kill Mozart? There is no hard evidence at all and the only points against Salieri are made up of hearsay. Although it is true that the court composer did do his best to prevent the emperor from hearing Mozarts music, and he criticized his music in private conversations, this is hardly enough to justify an accusation of murder. Even Mozarts wife Constanze, trusted him enough to have him tutor her son in later years at the piano, and one of Salieris pupils, upon visiting him on his deathbed, later said “the reunion was a sad one; for his appearance shocked me, and he spoke only in broken sentences of his approaching death; but finally with the words”although this is my last illness, however I assure you in good faith that there is no truth in the absurd rumor; you know what I meanthat I poisoned Mozart. But no..
tell the world that it is malice, pure malice; old Salieri, who will soon be dead, has told you this.” In conclusion, although Antonio Salieri was jealous of Wolfgang, it is very unlikely, in my opinion, that he would go as far as to murder him. The people were obviously caught up in a false accusation that was exciting, interesting, and incredibly romantic, without taking into consideration reasonable thought. Throughout Mozarts life, he was plagued by many illnesses. Modern scholars have tossed aside the popular yet unconvincing theory that Mozart was poisoned, and are focusing on a more plausible cause of death, sickness. Before his death, Dr. Closset examined Mozart. The doctor recorded symptoms such as fever, rash, and swelling of the hands and feet. These symptoms are indicative of disease, but it is more difficult to determine which disease actually killed him.
Mozart was a frail man, and continuous bouts with different diseases led him to become increasingly unhealthy in his old age. The people who are trying to piece together what disease killed Mozart believe that whichever disease it was, Mozart probably suffered from it previously. Luckily, Mozarts father, Leopold, wrote letters to the rest of their family describing all of the illnesses that Wolfgang suffered from. According to Leopold, at age six, Mozart suffered from his first serious illness, an upper respiratory infection. He had two serious relapses of this infection in 1762. In the same year, he contracted a case of rheumatic fever, which was most likely a result of his strep infections.
Two years later, Mozart suffered from tonsillitis, and the following year he was struck with typhoid fever. Leopold recorded the side effects of the typhoid, which included weight loss, slow pulse, skin rash, high fever, and pneumonia. Mozart also lapsed into a coma because of the typhoid fever. The sicknesses that Mozart exhibited in his childhood were only the beginning of a long life filled with various ailments. The next twenty-three years included such illnesses as a second bout with rheumatic fever in 1766, smallpox in 1767, severe frostbite in 1770, hepatitis in 1771, a painful dental abscess in 1774, bronchitis in 1780, a third attack of rheumatic fever in 1784, and another serious streptococcal infection in 1787.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, after examining Mozarts health record and the symptoms just before death, a few scholars put together the disease theory and printed it. But it did not get much attention because of all the excitement about the poisoning theory. Starting in the early 1960s, another wave of disease theories came into light. Most of these contained one of two main causes of death. The first suggestion that Mozarts death was brought about by another attack of rheumatic fever. The second cited kidney failure due to repeated streptococcal infections as the cause of death. Evidence supporting the rheumatic fever theory has been introduced. This evidence includes Mozarts symptoms, especially high fever and swollen hands and feet, which are characteristic of rheumatic fever.
Another shred of evidence supporting this theory is the fact that Mozart suffered from recurring rheumatic fever. Studies have shown that each successive attack weakens the heart, and a final serious bout with the disease could have been the final blow for Wolfgangs heart. After studying all the evidence supporting the disease theory, I have concluded that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart probably died from a serious illness, more specifically rheumatic fever. Although this is the most convincing theory, there will always be disagreement about the death of the worlds greatest composer, Mozart.