9. Antonio Salieri had nothing to do with the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The tale of Italian composer Antonio Salieri poisoning his rival in Vienna began with the Russian writer Alexander Pushkin in 1832. He included rumors and gossip which persisted that Mozart and Salieri had been rivals for the ear of the Emperor. Mozart’s popularity, according to Pushkin’s play Mozart and Salieri, led the Italian to poison his rival. In 1897 it was adapted into an opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Though not a particularly popular opera, it continued to be staged into the 1930s, keeping alive the rumors that Salieri poisoned Mozart out of jealousy. In truth, Salieri was the leading composer in Vienna during the time he knew Mozart, and one of the most sought teachers of music in Europe. Among his students were Beethoven, Liszt, Schubert, and Mozart’s own son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart.
In the 1970s, playwright Peter Schaffer revived the story in his play Amadeus. It later served as the basis for the award-winning film of the same name. It is true that Mozart and Salieri had occasional differences, though most of them came from the Austrian Mozart’s resentment of the influence of the Italians in the Emperor’s Court. At one point they jointly composed a piece for piano and voice, lost for decades before a manuscript was discovered in the Czech Museum of Music. During Mozart’s lifetime, he wrote in a letter of Salieri’s enthusiastic reception of his opera, The Magic Flute. Yet the persistent tale of the two being bitter rivals, leading Salieri to kill his fellow composer remains, despite efforts by historians, scholars, and musicians to quash it. In recent years, Salieri’s music, long forgotten, has been revived, despite many still believing he murdered Mozart.