Mozart Burial Myths

6 posts / 0 new
Last post
Mozart Burial Myths

According to the recent Gramophone Feature's article on Mozart:

Mozart's burial outside the city in a communal grave was in accordance with the prevalent custom of the time, influenced by Emperor Joseph II's reforms, proposed in 1784, encouraging simple, economical and hygienic burials.

Many go even further and believe that Mozart was given a "pauper's burial" and that he was sewn naked into a linen sheet and crudely ejected into mass grave from a re-usable coffin. The bottom doors swing open: the pauperized genius lands with a thump in the open pit. 

But none of this is true. Or it probably isn't true. Recent research strongly suggests that Mozart was buried in an individual grave and in an ordinary coffin. The widespread belief in a "simple" burial, and a mass or communal grave, is based on a number of assumptions which simply do not stand up to scrutiny. 

The first major assumption is the idea, repeated by Gramophone, that Mozart's burial took place in accordance with the Emperor Joseph II's reforms. But the truth was that these reforms didn't actually make it into law. The Emperor did indeed propose to make mass graves and linen sacks compulsory, but the outcry from the citizenry was so widespread and so vociferous, the bulk of the proposals never made it into law. In fact, the Emperor released a statement in which he officially  retracted the offending proposals.

Judging from the violence of the opposition to Emperor's proposals and from documentary evidence of various kinds (including detailed financial statements itemising the funeral expenses of Mozart's friends), the common practice seems to be much what we now think of a standard burial: an individual plot, an individual coffin, the corpse fully clothed. Words, music, tears. That is almost certainly what happened in Mozart's case. 

Furthermore, although Mozart's body was confined to a "common grave", this does not mean that it was "communal". The word "common" was simply meant to distinguish it from the superior burial rights which pertained to the aristocracy - i.e not common!

If you are interested in reading more, check out Michael Lorenz's interested in detailed work in this area.

RE: Mozart Burial Myths

Hello janeeliotgardiner ,

 

I am a bit suprised that  this story of the pauper's grave still persists and that Gramophone would reapeat it  ! Herman Albert in his book on Mozart (written almost 80 years ago )states that Mozart's funeral cost 8 florins , 36 kreutzers, plus 3 florins for the hearse(1) At the  time this was regaded as a modest sum, but it did not consitute a paupers grave.

 

1. "W A. Mozart" \ Herman Abert, Yale Unviersity Press, ( translated Stewart Spencer ), 2007 p. 1510

 

 

Regards

 

Amfortas

 

 

RE: Mozart Burial Myths

You are right, Amfortas. It is a surprise to find Gramophone peddling this old communal burial myth. I thought it had been debunked years ago.

Don't the people who run the features section care about factual accuracy?

RE: Mozart Burial Myths

Thanks Jane because I'd always believed this romantic view of Mozart's pauper's grave! Just widening out on the topic of Mozart's death, Jane et al, if I google 'death of Mozart' I get about eight different theories for what he died from. And is there any truth in this perhaps equally romantic idea that Mozart dictated passages of the Requiem to Sussmayr on his deathbed, which of course in the film version of Peter Schaffer's play was changed with poetically pognant license to dictating to Salieri? (Presumably that's in Schaffer's play too).

Mark 

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

RE: Mozart Burial Myths

It's been a while since I've read about all this stuff, Mark, but after skimming a couple of contemporary books (Mozart's Women and Mozart's Letters, Mozart's Life), both agree that Sussmayr did indeed help Mozart with the requiem on his deathbed and that Mozart explicitly gave instructions to help Sussmayr complete it. There doesn't seem to be any doubt about that. Also, shortly before he died, Mozart sang parts of what he had already written with his wife and other friends.

But as to what instructions he gave Sussmayr - who knows? Personally, I find it hard to believe that he didn't pass on or dictate something of the Benedictus........

 

 

RE: Mozart Burial Myths

Thanks for that Fasolt. It looks like the Sussmayr idea might be right then!

Mark

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

Log in or register to post comments

Gramophone Subscriptions

From£67/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2019