Another not completely uncommon mental health difficulty faced by some phenomenal composers is obsessive-compulsive disorder. One such individual was a nineteenth century Austrian composer. As an organist, his father was his first music teacher, although he died when this composer was only thirteen years old. This composer studied for some time at the Augustinian monastery in St. Florian, following which he was introduced to the music of Richard Wagner, which he studied extensively from 1863 onward. This composer wrote masses, motets, symphonies, sacred choral works, and a few chamber works. As a composer, this man was against his times, preferring to write following the musical principles that had existed for centuries. He composed some of the nineteenth century’s greatest, grandest symphonies that utilized sounds of dissonances which opened up a new musical terrain. However, he did not receive fame or acceptance for his work until after he was sixty years old. Along with being a composer, this man was a renowned organist in his day, impressing those across the European continent. Although he was considered a very simple man, his works were anything but. Most likely due to his obsessive compulsive disorder, coupled with the need to make his music more acceptable to the public, he made many changes to his works resulting in multiple variations for each piece. This has caused many difficulties, especially regarding the symphonies, in determining authentic versions of the pieces.

As a man, he had some distinguishing characteristics. Obsessed with death, he kept a photo of his mother’s corpse as his only memento of her after her passing. He also kissed the skulls of Beethoven and Schubert when their corpses were moved to a different cemetery, and even requested to see the skull of his dead cousin and that of the Emperor Maximilian. Considered humble, he once tipped a conductor for getting through a rehearsal of one of his symphonies. Regarding his personal life, he was devoutly Catholic, and he spent his years propositioning teenage girls, for he feared sin and based his interest on their assumed virtue. Other than rewriting his symphonies, striking characteristics relating to his mental illness were that he would always count the bricks and windows of buildings, and he would always count the number of bars in his orchestral scores to make sure their proportions were statistically correct. Although many of his behaviors were viewed as odd, there is no doubting the brilliance of his work. In fact, it may even be better that there are so many versions of his pieces, for it allows for greater insight into the composer’s mind which is often quite difficult to obtain. One may attempt to portray his mental illness as restrictive, but considering he completed over one hundred pieces, plus revisions, then it is clear that this was not the case.– Painted Brain Intern

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