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Mozart Minute: Mozart's Death

photo of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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Catch The Mozart Minute every Friday at noon during the Amadeus Deli, and listen to The Mozart Minute podcast at wosu.org/podcasts.

In the final scenes of Amadeus, Mozart dictates his Requiem Mass from his deathbed to Antonio Salieri. But Mozart’s sister-in-law Sophie Heibel, tells a different story of the composer’s death in a letter she wrote to her brother in 1825, excerpted by Peter Washington and Michael Rose in their edition of Mozart’s letters.  

  “I tried to control myself and went to his bedside," Heibel wrote. "He immediately called me to him and said, 'Ah, dear Sophie. How glad I am that you have come. You must stay here tonight and see me die.' I tried hard to be brave and to persuade him to the contrary. But to all my attempts he only replied, 'Why, I have already the taste of death on my tongue.'"

Heibel left Mozart's bedside in order to tell her mother she would be returning to stay with him that night. En route, she also summoned a priest. When she returned, Franz Süssmayr was at Mozart's bedside, and Mozart was telling him how the Requiem should be finished.

According to Heibel, only a few hours later, all was lost. "His last movement was an attempt to say something about the drum passages in the Requiem. […] Words fail me, dearest brother, to describe how his devoted wife in her utter misery threw herself on her knees and implored the Almighty for His aid. If it was possible to increase her sorrow, this was done on the day after that dreadful night, when crowds of people passed by and wept and wailed for him."

This classic episode of The Mozart Minute was first published on March 21, 2014.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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