To this day scholars, doctors and conspiracy theorists wonder aloud: was Mozart murdered? Did he take ill by accident? Was he poisoned? What we do know for sure is that he got slightly sick while working in Prague in September 1791, then got much sicker on Nov. 20, when he was back in Vienna and working, ironically, on his Requiem. Fifteen days later, on Dec. 5, unrecognizable from being all swelled up, rashed up and stinking to the very high heavens he was writing his Requiem for, he died. He was just 35 years old.
Judging from his genes, he wasn’t supposed to have died that soon. His father, Leopold Mozart, was 67 when he died, an ancient age in an era where people usually died in their late 40s or early 50s. Mozart’s sister lived to be 78. So what happened? The most likely verdict, according to the New York Times, is “streptococcal infection, renal failure, terminal bronchial pneumonia and a matrix of other illnesses, some dating from his childhood, when the Mozart family spent years touring Europe to show off the boy genius.”
Not that it makes a difference in the end. Imagine if Mozart had lived as long as, say, Haydn, or Telemann, or Bach, all of whom made it to (or past) the current official retirement age of 65. Bach barely made it, but Haydn lived to be 77, which explains those 104 symphonies, and Telemann lived to be 86, which explains why he could spare time to write background music for chow time, some of which was played at our Youth Orchestra concerts. Not that Mozart was a slouch in comparison: He wrote some 650 works, including 40 symphonies, 23 piano concertos, 203 dances, 61 divertimentos, 24 string quartets, 35 sonatas for violin and piano, 20 piano sonatas, too many operas to count, and a few hundred more works on top of that. The year he died he’d just completed “The Magic Flute” and the beautiful motet, “Ave verum corpus,” and he was trying to finish the Requiem.
He lives on. A day without Mozart is an incomplete day. So here are a few bits of Wolfgang to mark his death, which never really happened anyway if his music lives on, as it most surely (or, as they say in the halls of Buddy Taylor Middle School, “awesomely”) does.