Composers you have never heard of, and their strange deaths (part two)…


Johan Schobert’s exact birth year seems uncertain and has been listed as anywhere between 1720 and 1740, with a cautious consensus of 1735. Beginning in 1760 he was a harpsichordist in the service of the Prince de Conti in Paris. He had interactions with the Mozart family, specifically the father, Leopold, who reportedly said that his children could play Schobert’s music with ease. When you consider that one of his children was young Wolfgang Amadeus, who was already composing by the age of four, his statement isn’t quite as insulting as it first seems, though he probably meant it to be.

Actually, Wolfgang was fond of Schobert’s work from childhood. However, daddy Leopold also stated that “Schobert is not at all the man he is said to be—he flatters to one’s face and is utterly false,” so their relationship was certainly a touch odd. Regardless, Wolfgang would teach his music for years, and he even quoted some of Schobert’s melodies in his own works.

Yes, everything was going well enough for Johann and his family until a disastrous encounter with some of the local flora sometime in the summer of 1767. He had picked some wild mushrooms, cooked them, and served them to his wife and child, as well as to himself. Apparently a local tavern keeper had warned him against doing this without proper knowledge, and he was right. The mushrooms were poisonous and killed all three of them, plus a servant and others. Mycology was not one of his strong points.

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