Composer Health Series Post #4: Antonín Dvořák

By Sara Peach

Antonín Dvořák (1841 – 1904)

Photographer: Unknown

How old was he when he died?

62, which is not tragically young per se, but still on the young side by today’s standards.

How did he die?

It’s unclear. He began suffering from a pain in his side in late March 1904, according John Clapham, who wrote a biography of the composer in the 1960s. According to various sources, including an extensive Czech website devoted to the composer’s life, he then caught either a “chill” or influenza. After feeling well enough to eat soup with his family on May 1, he fell ill again and died that day, possibly of a stroke.

Yikes! Dvořák’s first three children with his wife Anna all died in infancy.

How would today’s doctors have treated him?

For influenza symptoms starting within the past two days, said D’Silva, “I might prescribe an antiviral medication, although it’s controversial how much it helps. The patient should rest, drink plenty of fluids, use over-the-counter medications for fever and muscle aches. Severe symptoms may need care in the hospital to support breathing and treat complications.”

But the best way to approach influenza is to prevent it through vaccination. “Everyone over six months of age should get a flu shot every year,” she said. “This can limit the size of the epidemic during flu season – November to March – and help protect our youngest, oldest, and frailest community members from this highly contagious virus.”

A stroke is an emergency requiring a 911 call, D’Silva said. As soon as symptoms begin – like sudden weakness or numbness in the face or a limb, or vision or speech trouble – every minute counts and neurology expertise improves outcomes. Doctors can treat strokes using a variety of methods, including medication and surgery, depending on the type of stroke.

Which pieces of his is the DMO performing?

“In Nature’s Realm” and “Song to the Moon,” from his opera “Rusalka.” Come hear this composer’s enduring work at our spring 2018 concert on May 3!

Note: this post is part #4 of a series on the health of classical composers. Don’t miss post #1, an introduction, post #2 on the death of Mozart, and post #3 on the death of Schubert.

Disclaimer: This is a blog post on an orchestra’s website, not a substitute for medical advice. Please see a doctor for any medical concerns you may have.

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