Tuberculosis in 200 Composers

By Breitenfeld, Darko; Trkanjec, Zlatko et al. | Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Tuberculosis in 200 Composers


Breitenfeld, Darko, Trkanjec, Zlatko, Pap, Mislav, Krištofić, Branimir, Akrap, Ankica, Kranjčec, Darko, Cecelja, Dora, Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research


Introduction

Tuberculosis as a febrile, subchronic, mostly pulmonary disease has taken many, mostly young lives among other infectious diseases in the last few centuries. From the 16th century onwards composers have namely lived relatively long in average, over 60 years. Because of its significance, we have decided to write this overview briefly describing the lives of most famous composers chronologically and by nationality, as well as listing so many other less influential [1,2].

Henry Purcell (1658-1695) was an English composer, organist and conductor of the court orchestra who received many recognitions for his opera "Didona and Eneja" while he was still young. He was gracefully and gently built, thin and frail. He overloaded himself and was very sociable and prone to parties and drinking. From fall 1965 he deteriorated and lost so much weight that he was bound to bed, sweating and coughing along with a fever. Apparently he got wet one night in London. It is believed that he died of tuberculosis which ended his creativity too soon [3].

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736) was an Italian composer, violinist and organist. Based on the number of famous compositions which he created while he was still very young, he belongs along with Bellini among the greatest Italian composers that Italy ever had and unfortunately prematurely lost. He lived freely and intensely throughout Italy. He was of a fragile structure prone to illnesses, and because of respiratory problems in the form of pulmonary tuberculosis took refuge in a monastery before his death. After a long disease, he died due to tuberculosis at the age on only 26 [3].

Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) was a famous Italian composer and cellist who died probably either from tuberculosis or pulmonary cancer. The acute state, pulmonary symptoms and their character al point to tuberculosis, along with the squalor in which he lived.

Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) was an Italian composer, cellist and all time virtuoso. He probably had a genetic disorder (Marfan syndrome) because of which he had very long hands and fingers, significant joint flexibility and thanks to that, along with his great talent he was able to perform special moves and virtuosity on the violin. He was thrifty and stingy even to himself. He never married because of his eccentric temper and many temporary affairs. He might have contracted encephalitis when he was young which might explain the distinctive, depressive and psychopathic personality he developed. He contracted tuberculosis of throat and lungs and also gonorrhea and syphilis later on. Syphilis was treated at the time with mercury which was usually toxic. His condition deteriorated, he lost his voice and was barely able to speak with a whisper, before his death he couldn't even swallow, he was carried around because his hands were shaking and legs began to swell. He took opium because of the pain which led to addictive signs, and in the end died from all of the above mentioned consequences exhausted and alone at the age of 58 [4].

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) was a German composer, conductor and great instrumental virtuoso. He was prone to illnesses since he was 25 years old when he developed heavy diarrhea, pulmonary problems and chest pains. He felt severely sick and was often bound to his bed. Onwards from the age of 30 he started to deteriorate and was becoming more exhausted and ill. He breathed with more and more difficulty, his voice was hoarse, had night sweats, bloody sputum, edematous legs, and was chocking from coughing. He died in agony at the age of only 29 in London most likely due to tuberculosis [3].

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish composer and pianist of a very delicate health and stature. He fell seriously ill for the first time at the age of 16; his neck glands started to impale and he developed a severe headache. He managed to recover, but then his sister contracted tuberculosis and died shortly after. …

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