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Piano Concerto, Op. 42, by Arnold Schoenberg

Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg had a controversial career – he was a modernist who embraced the 12 tone scale, and the Nazis labelled his music as degenerate.

There are plenty of famous deaths in 20th century music; Buddy Holly’s plane crash, Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and Freddie Mercury’s AIDS are among many notable examples. But all those rock star moves are predictable next to the story of Schoenberg’s demise – I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

Schoenberg’s superstitious nature may have triggered his death. 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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