On 5 December 1791 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at the age of 35. Apparently he was at the height of his powers: in September he had completed the score of “The Magic Flute,” conducted its premiere, then he had started writing the “Requiem”. He was evidently active and in good health, but suddenly, on 22 November, two days after his last public performance, he fell ill and was confined to bed, suffering from swelling, pain, and vomiting.
An autopsy was never performed on Mozart, and his funeral arrangements were not given proper care, even though it is thought they were in accordance with contemporary Viennese custom. At that time third- and second-class burials consisted of the dead being sewed—unclothed—into linen sacks and interred in a common grave without great ceremony. This practice gave rise to the notion that Mozart died a pauper in obscurity, but that was not the case.
There was also some rain mixed with snow which deterred people from accompanying the funeral wagon to St. Mark’s cemetery, about an hour’s walk away; and so no one was able to note the spot where the body was placed in a mass grave.
The versions of Mozart’s demise are numerous, and its circumstances have attracted much research and speculation. The official record mentions “severe miliary fever”, referring to a rash that looks like millet seeds, but a lot of other causes have been suggested. These include:
• acute rheumatic fever caused by strep infection,
• trichinosis, a parasitic disease acquired by eating undercooked pork chops
• a rare kidney ailment.
• syphilis ….
Several researchers say he was poisoned either by his rival Antonio Salieri or by treating his syphilis with larger-than-recommended doses of mercury, or even by Count von Walsegg-Stuppach, a Freemason and amateur composer who had anonymously asked him to compose a Requiem to be played at the anniversary of his 20-year-old wife’s death. The Count was known for commissioning works and then pretending they were his own ( a thing difficult to do if the true composer was still alive!)
Mozart may also have died from a cerebral haemorrhage resulting from cranial beating: when lying in his coffin he had a hood which covered his blond hair and was probably intended to hide his contusions. The story goes that Franz Hofdemel, a Masonic lodge brother of the composer, was married to an attractive young woman, Magdalena, who had been taking piano lessons with Mozart. He had seduced her and probably got her pregnant. When Franz had found out about the affair, he beat the rival to death. Shortly after the funeral he savagely attacked his pregnant wife with a razor, disfiguring her with slashes to the face, throat, and arms, and then cut his own throat with the same razor. Magdalena survived and five months later bore a child who, gossips insisted, was Mozart’s. He was baptized Johann, as reference to Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.
Another theory is that Free Masons put Mozart to death since he might have challenged their doctrines and depicted a secret ritual of the lodge in his” Magic Flute”: members guilty of disclosing sacred Masonic secrets could be punished by death.
A further hypothesis is that he was murdered by his wife Constance’s lover, Franz Xaver Süssmayr ( the assistant who completed the “Requiem”), a version supported by the fact that Mozart’s last child, born six months before the composer’s death, was named Franz Xavier.
Whatever the cause, I think that his death came far too early!