A new study provides evidence that Mozart suffered from Tourette's syndrome, which causes vocal and nervous tics and sudden involuntary outbursts of obscenities.
His obnoxious behaviour on occasions is well-documented, and was portrayed in the film Amadeus. Many of his letters and some of his lyrics reveal a startling vulgarity, which had to be censored after his death by his wife, Constanze. Last year, the newly-discovered text of a Mozart canon was translated as 'lick my arse, quickly, quickly'. Constanze had substituted the words 'let us be happy' when she sent the manuscript to the publishers.
In one letter to his father, Mozart describes how he entertained the director of the world-famous Mannheim orchestra by reciting obscene rhymes on such subjects as 'muck, shitting and arse-licking'. Scholars have long puzzled over the paradox of the sublime music Mozart was capable of, and his tendency to focus on buttocks and defecation.
Now researchers from the Department of Medicine at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have analysed Mozart's letters, and contemporary descriptions of his behaviour in a report in tomorrow's issue of the British Medical Journal.
They point out that many of the 'scatological' letters coincide with periods of great emotion in Mozart's life, such as the birth and death of his first son, and the climax of his conflict with the Archbishop of Salzburg.
Some of the descriptions comment on the composer's inability to stand still, the involuntary jerks and the 'extraordinary grimaces' he made. 'His features would alter from one instant to another . . . his body was perpetually in motion . . .'
Mozart also had an obsession with nonsense words such as 'oragnia figarafa,' and certain words or phrases which reflect 'perseverating obsessive thoughts' are found in his letters.
The researchers concluded that there is good evidence to support the proposition that Mozart suffered from Tourette's syndrome or, as it has been described, 'an incontinence of the emotions'.