Mozart’s Murder: Look for the Guilty Woman

As we all know, there is nothing concrete to explain Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s early death (in 1791), and so, over the centuries, speculation has mounted. Some time ago, streptococcus was mentioned, for the first time I think; other hypotheses include nephritis, mercury poisoning and syphilis. It is probably true to say that, whatever the illness, it was the treatments administered by the doctors that led to his death. Medicine at the time was truly frightening, and what can be easily cured today could then cause a rapid death. And it is so sad that it brought about the premature death of such a genius; if he had lived to almost eighty, like his sister, where would he have taken us, and Music?

Mozart murder Lange
Unfinished portrait of Mozart by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange (1782).

Writers have always been fascinated by the mystery, starting with Alexander Pushkin who, in his play Mozart and Salieri (1830), immortalized the idea that Antonio Salieri had a role in Mozart’s sudden end. An idea that became massively popular thanks to the film Amadeus (1984).

Some time ago, we started talking about murder again. But Salieri had nothing to do with it this time.

Here is the disturbing idea that one of the readers of my Italian blog told me about.

Hi Rita, I wanted to ask your opinion about something I read on the Internet, which left me a bit surprised. The web page in question says that Mozart died of a brain hemorrhage after being beaten up by the jealous husband of one of his pupils who was expecting Mozart’s child. The day after Mozart’s death this man, whose name was Franz Hofdemel, maimed his wife with a razorblade and then committed suicide.

(As you can see we are once again looking for a woman to blame.)

The text goes on to say that the Austrian court covered up the scandal of Hofdemel’s death; he was a person of some standing as well as a Mason, as was Mozart. This cover-up job meant that Mozart’s body disappeared so that no one could find out how he died. It is believed the body was thrown into the Danube. I am not saying there is no truth in this hypothesis; it’s just that I have never heard anything about it before. For example, in Piero Melograni’s biography of Mozart, there is a mention of Mozart’s relationship with the wife of a famous man — but Melograni doesn’t say anything about blows to the head as the cause of death. What do you reckon?

Not much, except that it’s good material for a film or a novel. The official Mozart biographers want nothing to do with the story, even though it seems fairly certain that Mozart had a relationship with Magdalena, Hofdemel’s wife. But, unless new evidence comes to light, it will always remain a possibility, not a certainty.

However, if any of you are thinking about possible Mozart descendants, you can save yourselves the bother. Mrs. Hofdemel’s child, who was assumed to be Mozart’s, died in infancy. Neither of Mozart’s legitimate sons married and had children. And according to Bernhard Paumgartner, one of Mozart’s eminent biographers, the last descendant of the family was Bertha Forschter, a great-grand-daughter of Mozart’s sister Nannerl. Sadly, she died in 1919 in the Insane Asylum at Feldhof, near Graz, after a chronic mental illness of 30 years’ duration.