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Best Composer Death


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I nominate Louis Vierne, composer and organist at Notre Dame de Paris:

 

Vierne suffered either a stroke or a heart attack (eyewitness reports differ) while giving his 1750th organ recital at Notre-Dame de Paris on the evening of 2 June 1937. He had completed the main concert, which members of the audience said showed him at his full powers—"as well as he has ever played." Directly after he had finished playing his "Stele pour un enfant defunt" from his 'Triptyque' Op 58, the closing section was to be two improvisations on submitted themes. He read the first theme in Braille, then selected the stops he would use for the improvisation. He suddenly pitched forward, and fell off the bench as his foot hit the low "E" pedal of the organ. He lost consciousness as the single note echoed throughout the church. He had thus fulfilled his oft-stated lifelong dream—to die at the console of the great organ of Notre-Dame. Maurice Duruflé, another major French organist and composer, was at his side at the time of his death.

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I nominate Arnold Schoenberg, who convinced himself into dying on a Friday the 13th, out of his own superstitions:

 

The composer had triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13), and according to friend Katia Mann, he feared he would die during a year that was a multiple of 13. He dreaded his sixty-fifth birthday in 1939 so much that a friend asked the composer and astrologer Dane Rudhyar to prepare Schoenberg's horoscope. Rudhyar did this and told Schoenberg that the year was dangerous, but not fatal.

 

But in 1950, on his seventy-sixth birthday, an astrologer wrote Schoenberg a note warning him that the year was a critical one: 7 + 6 = 13. This stunned and depressed the composer, for up to that point he had only been wary of multiples of 13 and never considered adding the digits of his age. He died on Friday, 13 July 1951, shortly before midnight. Schoenberg had stayed in bed all day, sick, anxious and depressed. His wife Gertrud reported in a telegram to her sister-in-law Ottilie the next day that Arnold died at 11:45 pm, 15 minutes before midnight. In a letter to Ottilie dated 4 August 1951, Gertrud explained, "About a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold's throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end".

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His wife Gertrud reported in a telegram to her sister-in-law Ottilie the next day that Arnold died at 11:45 pm, 15 minutes before midnight. In a letter to Ottilie dated 4 August 1951, Gertrud explained, "About a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold's throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end".

 

They might've rounded it; he probably really died at 13 minutes to midnight. Or else we're meant to take away the 2 rattles from the 15 minutes. Or something else 13

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A few other nominees:

 

  • Ernest Chausson, who literally "hit the wall" (while riding a bike downhill).
  • Enrique Granados, whose successful musical career was fatally torpedoed (by a German U-boat during WW 1).
  • Alessandro Stradella, targeted by a hitman over his musical lessons (or more precisely, over his habit of moving into extramusical issues with his female pupils).
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This probably doesn't constitute as a "best" death, but more tragic: Anton Webern was shot while smoking a cigar by an American soldier in 1945 in Austria. The soldier apparently died later filled with sorrow and remorse. 

 

P.S.: Best composer death, fictionally, is the death of Mozart in Amadeus.

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Bernstein died from envy. The story has it, as told by Merle Sequest, that The Meastro was feeling down in the dumps. He was sullen and argumentitive when a friend approached him and said, Lenny, Why the long face?

 

And Bernstein replied only, "I just saw Sweeney Todd."

 

Good. Better. Best. Bested.

Edited by Ken320
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Beethoven died shaking his fist at thunder. Till the last moment of his life he was thus defiant, just like his music.

In one report I read, Beethoven is quoted as saying finally "And now my friends, the comedy ends". He had a dark sense of humour.

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Bernstein died from envy. The story has it, as told by Merle Sequest, that The Meastro was feeling down in the dumps. He was sullen and argumentitive when a friend approached him and said, Lenny, Why the long face?

 

And Bernstein replied only, "I just saw Sweeney Todd."

 

Good. Better. Best. Bested.

Is this true, urban legend or did you just make it up?  :P

It certainly sounds like it could be true. Bernstein tried for much of his life to elevate the American musical, and it was his own lyricist for the best of his attempts who went on to do it even more successfully. The old master must have fealt his protege outdid him. Sweeney Todd is my personal favorite musical. You simply can not find a more intelligent (while also scary on a visceral level) score and lyrics on broadway.

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Is this true, urban legend or did you just make it up?  :P

It certainly sounds like it could be true. Bernstein tried for much of his life to elevate the American musical, and it was his own lyricist for the best of his attempts who went on to do it even more successfully. The old master must have fealt his protege outdid him. Sweeney Todd is my personal favorite musical. You simply can not find a more intelligent (while also scary on a visceral level) score and lyrics on broadway.

i didn't make it up. Let's put it this way. He died a little bit. (As you say, who could not?). I trust Merle Sequest's account in her biography of Sondheim as the truth regarding Bernstein's reaction to Sweeney Todd. I have no reason to doubt Ms. Sequest's annectdote. Please read it for yourself if you like Sondheim's music. It's very informative.

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