Mozart ‘was not really an alcoholic’, says British surgeon

Mozart was NOT an alcoholic: The celebrated composer would have been unable to create such masterpieces if he had the disease, claims expert

  • Claim is made in a new book, ‘That Jealous Demon: My Wretched Health’
  • In it, Dr Jonathan Noble studies old medical records of deceased composers
  • Mozart is simply the victim of gossip and there is no evidence of alcoholism
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Mozart lived a flamboyant life full of luxury foods and heavy drinking.

At least that’s the claim of some historians who believe the famous composer was an alcoholic who relied on booze to aid his creativity.

But an academic from the London-based Royal College of Surgeons is now hoping to restore Mozart’s reputation. 

In his new book, ‘That Jealous Demon: My Wretched Health’, Dr Jonathan Noble argues that Mozart is simply the victim of gossip and there is no evidence he was an alcoholic.

In fact, he says alcoholism was an ‘extremely rare condition’ among composers.

There is ‘no way you can go around composing operas, symphonies or string quartets’ if you are a true alcoholic, he claims.

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The final portrait of Mozart (pictured), painted in 1790, shows the 33-year-old composer’s puffy and blotched face, with many speculating that he had succumbed to alcoholism 

Jonathan Noble, fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, initially set out to write a book about illnesses that afflicted great composers.

However, his research based on post-mortem reports and medical notes revealed that few suffered the conditions attributed to them. 

‘Maybe alcoholism inspires great poetry, but with music you come to a very different conclusion’, Dr Noble told the Telegraph..

Despite the claims of their biographers, Dr Noble said he found no evidence Mozart, Schubert, Brahms or Beethoven had problems with alcohol.

‘I started out really writing about illnesses and trying to find out what these composers actually did die of, but it soon became apparent many didn’t have any diagnosis, their conditions were just hearsay,’ he said.

Dr Noble said that alcoholism was a rare condition that was ‘inconsistent with serious, sustained musical composition’.

Mozart suffered illness throughout his life, including kidney disease, smallpox, typhoid fever, tonsillitis and strep throat.

Many have speculated over Mozart’s death at the age of 35.

He was buried just three days after he died in 1791, and no autopsy was ever performed.


As well as dismissing claims about alcoholism, Dr Noble said that there were further unfounded claims about French composer Maurice Ravel and British composer Benjamin Britten (pictured) suffering from syphilis


According to the retired surgeon and author, claims about Ravel’s (pictured) condition came from a single nurse who had seen his blood report after he died

As well as dismissing claims about alcoholism, Dr Noble said that there were further unfounded claims about French composer Maurice Ravel and British composer Benjamin Britten suffering from syphilis.

According to the retired surgeon and author, claims about Ravel’s condition came from a single nurse who had seen his blood report after he died.

Britten’s medical notes suggest he had a diseased heart valve, not syphilis.

The playwright’s doctor speculated that he acquired the reputation of an alcoholic because he liked a ‘stiff drink before dinner’.

Dr Noble’s book That Jealous Demon: My Wretched Health is published by Boydell & Brewer.

In it, Dr Noble says he wants to do justice to the reputations of composers who have been ‘sullied’ by unfounded claims about their health. 

CAN LISTENING TO MOZART HELP YOU FOCUS?

Listening to Mozart can significantly help to focus the mind and improve brain performance, according to research.

A study found that listening to a minuet – a specific style of classical dance music – composed by Mozart increased the ability of both young and elderly people to concentrate and complete a task.

Scientists say that the findings help to prove that music plays a crucial role in human brain development.

Researchers from Harvard University took 25 boys, aged between eight and nine as well as 25 older people aged between ages 65 to 75, and made them complete a version of a Stroop task.

The Stroop task is a famous test used to investigate a person’s mental performance and involves asking the participant to identify the colour of words.

The challenge is managing to identify the correct colour when the word spells out a different colour.

Both age groups were able to identify the correct colours quicker and with less errors when listening to the original Mozart music.

When dissonant music played, reaction times became significantly slower and there was a much higher rate or mistakes.

Scientists said that the brain’s natural dislike of dissonant music and the high success rate of the flowing, consonant (harmonious) music of Mozart indicate the important effect of music on cognitive function.

It also showed that consonant music could help come people ignore distractions, they added.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s is universally described as complex, melodically beautiful and rich in harmony and texture.

The Austrian composer, keyboard player, violinist, violist, and conductor died at the age of 35, and left behind more than 600 pieces.

Previous studies have found that his compositions provide cognitive benefits and scientists have referred to this as the ‘Mozart Effect’.

 

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