What caused Mozart's death

panorama : Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: cause of death: unknown

The diagnosis came from the USA and more than 200 years after his death - a sensation: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the musical genius, had only died so early because of this, he had only been unable to complete his Requiem because of a contaminated pork chop. For the time being, it was the last of more than 100 theories that already existed on Mozart's death.

It was brought into the world by a physician named Jan V. Hirschmann from Seattle. Well, Mozart, that was something special, it goes with a special death - but pork chops? Hirschmann refers to a letter from the genius to his wife Constanze, in which he writes about the enjoyment of a pork chop. According to the doctor, all of the symptoms of his illness described correspond to those caused by nematode worms, which were widespread at the time.

No sooner was the theory in the world than the protest followed. "Of the endless speculations about Mozart's death, this is one of the most ridiculous," says Leipzig doctor and toxicologist Reinhard Ludewig. "What Hirschmann claims he cannot substantiate with the material he cites." The 78-year-old professor is the founder of the Institute for Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Leipzig and the author of an internationally established standard work on poisoning.

Wait a moment. Poisoning, poisoning ... wasn't there what? Yes, there was something. Probably the most persistent rumor that has always haunted Mozart's death: the tenacious legend namely, Kapellmeister Salieri, Antonio Salieri, the eternal loser, would have brought his divine arch-rival around the corner. With mercury, maybe. Peter Schaffer's epic "Amadeus" hits the same line - and in fact the theory is not entirely out of thin air.

Mozart himself is said to have spoken of being poisoned with "aqua toffana" (a poison that was widespread at the time, a deadly cocktail of arsenic and lead oxide) on his death bed and suspected Salieri. The day of his death, according to the dying genius, was "calculated precisely in advance"; one would have "ordered a requiem for it", which he wrote for himself. More than that: Salieri is said to have even confessed to the murder - albeit in a state of mental derangement.

Toxicologist Ludewig considers the rumors of poisoning for what they are: rumors. Saliere was "long gone, old hat". And mercury causes tremors - "Mozart, however, wrote crisply and clearly until shortly before his death".

Since then, since December 5, 1791, when the genius died miserably at the age of 35, the rumor mill has been simmering. There is talk of a "heated Frieselfever" in the examination book and the Viennese press. In Speyer, however, it is said that Mozart died of dropsy. A newspaper from Berlin does not want to rule out dropsy, but also considers poisoning to be a conceivable option: Mozart's body was swollen, strangely swollen.

That doesn't mean that there is poisoning, says Faith Fitzgerald of the University of California. Mozart, thinks the internist, died of a fever, as it says in the death register, of a rheumatic fever.

On November 20, 1791, Mozart actually complained of a high fever. About a headache. About pain in the arms and legs that are swollen. He's still sane, but the singing of his favorite canary gets on his nerves so much that he has him removed from his room without further ado. The genius's nerves are on edge - "a classic fever symptom," says Fitzgerald. Then there is diarrhea and vomiting, the body swells so much that the sick Mozart hardly fits into his clothes. Gradually he senses that his end is near. Gives instructions to ensure the completion of the requiem. Then, 15 days after his first attack of fever, Mozart dies - perhaps of heart failure? "If the swelling in his body was caused by heart failure, Mozart might have an inflammation of the heart," speculates Fitzgerald.

We will never know for sure. "The original documents are incomplete, partly falsified and contradicting," says Ludewig. There is also no lock of hair from Mozart, as in Beethoven's case. US scientists analyzed Beethoven's 422 hairs last year. The result: the hair contained 100 times the lead value that is normal today. This confirmed the theory that Beethoven died from frequent consumption of lead-sugar mixed wine. Mozart's death, however, remains a great mystery. The next theory is only a matter of time. But we will not know what Amadeus really died of. "Never," says Ludewig.

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