Did Salieri poison him? Did he die of shock? Was it mercury poisoning? Mozart’s death is still shrouded in mystery.
The 1984 movie “Amadeus” showed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart being killed by his rival and composer Antonio Salieri. This was based on Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play Amadeus which in turn was inspired by the Alexander Pushkin’s short drama called Mozart and Salieri that was released in 1830, five years after Salieri’s death.
The 1984 movie showed him taking advantage of Mozart’s fondness for drink and poisoned it with an arsenic poison, aqua tofana. And finally when the great composer’s body was thrown into the pauper’s grave he took his manuscripts and published them as his own. For most of us that is the story we know and we believe. But is it true?
Unfortunately the real cause behind Mozart’s death in 1791 is still a much debated topic even today. Some say he ultimately died due to poisoning but if Salieri was behind it or not is not really known.
It is true that Mozart and Salieri were professional rivals. However, there was no need for him to kill Mozart to get him out of his way. Salieri was already an important and powerful figure within the industry. Though legend says that he finally made the confession when he was in his death bed (1823), 32 years after Mozart’s death. The rumors spread so quickly that a leaflet showing him standing over Mozart with a cup of poison was even distributed at the Vienna performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Those who knew Salieri however defended him.
Regarding the confession – well there is no evidence. The best till now is the one where author Igor Boelza says he was told by someone that he had seen a report of the confession written by Salieri’s priest. But does such a written document exist? Its discovery would indeed be a huge one! For now the only written document is that which was written by two of Salieri’s caregivers saying that they had never heard of any such confession from the man.
There is another story that says that Beethovan had once told a ypung composer who had come to his house with Salieri to go away because the latter had poisoned Mozart. But this seems quite doubtful because Beethovan had always held Salieri in great regard (the latter had tutored the former) and had even dedicated his violin sonatas Opus 12 to him.
In fact, Mozart’s student, Süssmayr, who completed Mozart’s Requiem after his death continued his studies under Salieri after Mozart’s death and has gone onto say that Salieri was not a murderer. Also the Requiem which made Mozart overwork himself was not even commissioned by him but by Count Franz von Walsegg!
A few like the author Georg Friedrich Daumer have said that Mozart’s death was a Masonic conspiracy. His opera “The Magic Flute” had apparently violated certain Masonic rules.
Mozart’s wife Constanze and his sister Sophie who were by his side during his last few months have in fact said that he was not poisoned. Most likely the shock from a cold compress applied to one of his extremities cause his death in 1791.
Doctors today also feel, from reading his biographies, that he might havebeen suffering from a kidney disease. It is this which might have caused the swelling. But those with such an illness is often in a coma. How then did some of Mozart’s best work happen during his last days?
Another school of thought feels he might have self administered mercury to cure syphilis and died from that.
Unfortunately the complete truth might never be known because his body could not even be taken out from the mass burial grave where pauper’s were thrown.