Beethoven Death

Beethoven frequently argued with his brothers. In 1826, Beethoven was returning home from his brother’s place, where he had a major argument. He caught a cold. The illness made many of his other health problems worse. It is likely that the cold made his liver condition worse. Beethoven’s death is largely attributed to lead poisoning, which is factually incorrect.

Beethoven Death and Funeral

Beethoven died on March 26, 1827. He was surrounded by friends when he lay on his death bed. It also stormed as he passed. His funeral was held at the Church of the Holy Trinity. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people attended. Franz Schubert, who had never been close to Beethoven, was one of is coffin bearers.

Grave–Where is Beethoven Buried?

Beethoven is buried with a great monument in Vienna. Schubert died about a year after Beethoven and is buried not too far away. For a while, head hunters were bribed to steal Beethoven’s head from his grave and his friends put a watch over his grave.

Some Common Misconceptions Surrounding Beethoven Death

So what did Beethoven say when he died? Everyone seems to think that Beethoven’s last words were “Applaud, my friends, the comedy is over.” In actuality, the last words before Beethoven’s death were, “Pity, pity–too late.” Beethoven was told of a gift of twelve bottles of wine for his publisher. Beethoven didn’t actually “shake his fist at the heavens,” like many sources have claimed. It is also unlikely that he said, “I shall hear in heaven.

Beethoven’s Death: Caused By Lead Poisoning? Not Likely

It is highly unlikely that lead poisoning contributed to Beethoven’s death. In recent years, his hair samples have been a high point of conjecture for lead poisoning as a cause of Beethoven’s death. During his final illness, he was treated with a solution that contained lead, but the wound was kept dry according to records. In 2005, a doctor at Stanford University tested two samples of Beethoven’s hair. He concluded that Beethoven had no more lead than other people his age (56).

The autopsy conducted after Beethoven’s death revealed that he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. This may have been largely in part of alcohol consumption or a strain of hepatitis that was related to other health conditions.

Beethoven Death Mask

When Beethoven died, a death mask was cast on March 28, 1827. Beethoven’s body was clothed and placed in a coffin at this time. His head was adorned with white roses. His hands held a wax  cross and a lily. Here is a photo of his death mask.

Death masks were a common tradition during this time and many famous composers had them done. These include composers like Chopin and Liszt, among others. The death masks were not actually placed in the coffin. But they were used in funeral ceremonies and then kept in important places like libraries and universities.

Mozart’s Death vs. Beethoven’s Death

Mozart and Beethoven are largely regarded as the most famous composers of the classical period. However, Mozart’s death was very different than Beethoven’s. Mozart died in poverty while Beethoven’s death happened when he was wealthy. Mozart’s cause of death is not widely known. However, Mozart was not buried in a “pauper’s grave,” which is a common myth. Mozart was actually buried in a commoner’s grave. This grave was an individual grave, not a communal one. Additionally, Mozart’s grave was subject to be reused after a period of ten years. As much as you want to believe, Mozart did NOT die at the hands of Antonio Salieri.

What Was the Last Piece Composed Before Beethoven’s Death?

Believe it or not, it’s really hard to pinpoint the last piece that Beethoven composed before he died. We’re not talking about “sketches” of pieces that Beethoven laid out during his final years (did you know there was a sketch of Beethoven’s proposed 10th Symphony?). There was a set of piano waltzes that Beethoven laid out.

The last piece that Beethoven composed with an opus number was Op. 135, the quartet in F major. Beethoven additionally composed several “sections” of pieces. This is discussed more fully in Music and Letters from 1952.