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Strep Throat May Have Led to Mozart's Death
Date:8/17/2009

Reexamination of historical records points to an epidemic at the time,,

MONDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- It's one of the enduring mysteries of classical music: What -- or who -- killed Mozart at the age of 35 when he was at the height of his creative powers?

Now, there's a new theory: He died of complications of strep throat.

The latest hypothesis lacks the inherent drama of murder by a rival or suicide, which have both been suggested as causes of Mozart's death. But Andrew Steptoe, co-author of a historical diagnosis published Aug. 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said an infection makes the most sense, considering medical records from the time, which was Vienna in 1791.

"We have for the first time analyzed the causes of death that were prevalent over the period during which he died," said Steptoe, an epidemiologist at University College London. "This has given us ideas about what medical problems were widespread at that time, and we have been able to link this with the known facts about Mozart's death."

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, considered one of the world's most brilliant composers, died in 1791. "In the months before his death, he was busy and successful, with the 'Magic Flute' playing to packed houses, and a flow of other masterworks, including the clarinet concerto," Steptoe said. "He died after only a brief illness, and was buried with the minimum of fuss in a very modest ceremony."

Had Mozart not died, commissioned works "would surely have resulted in some amazing music, the imagined loss of which is surely a good part of what drives the continual reconsideration of the subject" of his death, said Neal Zaslaw, a Mozart specialist and a professor of music at Cornell University.

A huge gamut of theories have emerged on the subject over the centuries, including foul play (murder by fellow composer Salieri, as suggested in the multiple Oscar-winning movie "Amadeus")
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