Music

The most unusual deaths among classical musicians – rts.ch

The most unusual deaths among classical musicians – rts.ch

The palm of the diseases that have wreaked the greatest havoc on artists goes unquestionably to alcoholism. The personalities of the world of classical music to have suffered from this pathology are numerous. To cite only the best known, Carl Friedrich Abel, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Modest Mussorgsky, Max Reger and Erik Satie are all reputed to have been notorious alcoholics.

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881), for example, began drinking as a teenager. When he left school at the age of 17, he was already used to drinking a lot and more than reason. To vodka, which he does not disdain, he prefers champagne and cognac, a trend accentuated by a very dynamic social life.

All testimonies agree in giving Mussorgsky the palm of drunkenness. His life is a long descent into hell. His physical and mental condition deteriorated rapidly, so much so that in October 1878 Balakirev described him thus: “His organism is too deeply ruined to be anything but a corpse”. He is only 39 years old.

>> To listen: the program “L’oreille d’abord” devoted to the most unusual deaths in the history of music (2/3)

The most unusual deaths in the history of music (2/3) / The ear first / 86 min. / November 1, 2022

In February 1881, Mussorgsky fell ill during an evening organized in memory of Dostoyevsky. Hospitalized in an army service, his condition is considered very severe. On March 16, 1881, wanting to celebrate what he thought was his birthday, the composer drank during the night a bottle of cognac brought in on the sly by a carer. He was found dead at the foot of his bed at five o’clock in the morning. His lavish funeral takes place two days later. “All men of genius and progress in Russia are and will be eternally convicts or drunkards”, wrote Dostoyevsky in “The Possessed”.

Alcohol will also get the better of the French composer Erik Satie who died of cirrhosis of the liver, a pathology he said, with his legendary humor, he had carefully cultivated. If Moussorgski liked to drink cognac or champagne, Erik Satie preferred absinthe.

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