Mozart's angina

Edited: July 4, 2020, 5:38 AM · I read about 70 pages of Hildesheimer's Mozart, in the original, and it's such a lot of drivelling psychobabble that I lost the will to live - Mozart was autistic: Freud didn't do autism. Or if he did, he did it badly.

So I ordered an English translation to speed things up and get it off my shelves and out of my life.

Now, in the timeline it says, in both German and English, that when Mozart was 9 he and his father both simultaneously suffered from angina!

And by coincidence I was watching Heimat 2 the other night and Hermann Simon comes down with "angina" but the subtitles say "tonsillitis". Curious!

In England angina only ever refers to the heart. But German wiki says they use the word there in its general sense of compression/strangulation with a qualifier, and the most common type seems to be "angina tonsillaris"!

Unless Mozart's dad was lucky enough to have stable angina, he'd probably have croaked it pretty soon after if he had heart trouble.
And the 9-year-old Mozart? I had "precordial something or other" when I was 14 or so, which is a typical age for that (unexplained but harmless) condition. 9 is a bit young, and his dad would have been too old. And the coincidence would have been unlikely.

It seems to me that probably M and his dad had, rather than simultaneous tonsillitis, something like strep throat or similar from something they ate, maybe diagnosed as tonsillitis? Which would make the translator of Hildesheimer as ignorant as I was. Or maybe the American usage (translator Marion Faber) is as general as the German, or maybe Faber delegated the translation of the timeline to a postgrad? Maybe tonsillitis ran in the family and they both had it together, which is a less unlikely coincidence.

Those of you who have read Mozart biogs in detail know anything about specifically what they had?

It occurs to me that it might become clear if I read more of that damn book, lol!

Replies (6)

July 4, 2020, 12:04 PM · While I can't comment on young Wolfgang's sore throat, I will say that musician biographies are among the most boring books in existence. They all read about the same:

(insert virtuoso) grew up in an upper class family surrounded by music. When they were 2 years old they started on the (insert instrument) and immediately got sent off to conservatory where they saw nothing but success. Then they played music for a few decades and died.

My teacher pawned off a book about Wieniawski on me. Since it was in Polish, I figured it would be good for brushing up on what was my first language. While I'm fascinated by the historical conditions of the time and the overall musical atmosphere, I'm sorry—Wieniawski's personal life really put me to sleep.

July 4, 2020, 2:40 PM · The letters repeatedly use "catarrh" to describe severe inflammations of the throat with high fevers that Leopold and both the children suffered from (repeatedly). (We Bavarians still use the word to describe any sort of cold.)
It is correct that in German angina = tonsillitis ("Mandelentzündung"), whereas the heart condition is referred to as angina pectoris.

There seems to be consensus that the condition described most likely points to bacterial tonsillitis (given the high fever), first caught by Leopold, then the children. They certainly did not have a heart condition.

If you are interested in reading about Mozart, I recommend the letters by Leopold, Nannerl and Wolfgang himself.

July 4, 2020, 3:19 PM · Katrina,

Interesting recommendation. My wife and I along with musical friends went to see a one-woman play about Nannerl based on her correspondence. The play was quite interesting and a real tour-de-force of emotions for the actor to portray for almost two hours.

Edited: July 5, 2020, 2:24 AM · Thanks for the excellent reply, Katarina.
(I lived in Bad Oberdorf for 16 months, but didn't catch a cold!).

My gf is from Schnaitsee, but I haven't asked her - I once asked about Pachelbel but she said she'd never heard of him and would like to keep it that way, lol!

Edited: July 5, 2020, 12:06 PM · It is true, I was diagnosed with angina as a kid. It was just an inflammation of the throat that refused to heal until the doctor prescribed an antibiotic. In German angina the heart condition is called "angina pectoris".

As to Hildesheimer's book: Maybe you should read on. You'll find that the purpose is not "psychobabble". The book rather questions old stereotypes and pieties about Mozart and presents him as an ordinary human being. Ordinary in all respects except his extraordinary capacity in music. To me it is the best book about Mozart I have read.

You say Mozart was autistic. A generation ago he was bipolar. Diagnoses come and go and they do not help us understand someone of Mozart's stature. And--as Hildesheimer makes clear--in spite of the large amount of sources that we have about Mozart we simply do not know enough about him to diagnose him.

July 7, 2020, 7:45 AM · I've had bacterial tonsillitis as an adult and that is NOT fun, even with antibiotics.

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