A St Andrews professor will today shed new light on the composer's



Two hundred years ago this afternoon -- or, depending on what books

you consult, tomorrow -- Mozart's swollen, putrifying corpse was

trundled through the streets of Vienna to St Stephen's Cathedral for

ecclesiastical benediction in the presence of friends and family, then

delivered to the suburban cemetery of St Marx to be buried.

Abject poverty, says received opinion, destined him for a pauper's

grave, but the truth -- as Peter Branscombe, Professor of German at St

Andrews University, will declare in Fife today in a bicentenary lecture

on Mozartian legend and reality -- was somewhat different.

Mozart's burial, he will point out, was perfectly standard for its

period in Vienna, where there was reluctance to have any pomp or show.

In 1784 the Emperor Joseph II had decried the wastefulness of Austrian

funeral procedures, and insisted on new sanitary and financial

regulations about how and where the dead should be buried. Coffins, if

used at all, were to be re-used (a hinge on the bottom enabled bodies to

be dropped into the grave and quickly dissolved in unslaked lime); and

when several corpses arrived simultaneously they were to be buried, if

possible, together.

Mozart's, says Branscombe, was not the lowest class of funeral --

there were lower levels -- and was consistent with Vienna's eminently

practical arrangements. What he calls ''the hoary old myth'' of the

snowstorm on the way to the cemetery is something else he will refute,

along with the belief that Mozart died neglected. As has now been

confirmed, there was a candlelit ceremony at St Michael's Church three

days later when parts of the Requiem were sung.

As for the abject poverty theory, Mozart had had enough cash a few

weeks before his death to send a carriage to take his rival Salieri,

complete with mistress, to a performance of The Magic Flute, and deliver

them home afterwards -- an incident quoted in Branscombe's new Cambridge

Handbook on Mozart's last comedy (paperback #9.95) though hardly the

stuff Peter Shaffer's play, where Salieri (who loved The Magic Flute)

plays a more villainous role.

Branscombe, an authority on historic Vienna, has devoted much of his

life to The Magic Flute and its background. He first worked on it as a

student in Austria in the 1950s. His 247-page book was commissioned in

1982 and should have been ready by 1986, but was finished just in time

for the bicentenary. It is, he says, the fruit of a long and literally

painful gestation, not only because ''there is always the expectation

that something lost will come to light,'' but also because some

accidents he suffered while researching it must have made him wonder if

indeed the ghost of Salieri was trying to prevent him completing it.

First, the day before he was due to fly home after three months

working on Mozart and the nineteenth-century playwright Johann Nestroy

(who had sung Sarastro in the Flute) he slipped on the ice and broke his

hip. Two passers-by picked him up and he fell again, further injuring

himself. By the time his wife, who had been shopping nearby, turned up

to meet him, he had been whisked to hospital and she took hours to

locate him.

After more than three months in traction in a Viennese hospital he

resumed his researches. Then, while staying in a suburban guest house,

he was savaged by an alsatian dog and required stitches in his arm.

''But never for a moment,'' he proclaims, ''have I been tempted to lose

faith in Mozart.''

Indeed in January this tall, storklike, and now limping professor is

off again to Vienna, where the recent discovery that Mozart was being

sued towards the end of his life for a considerable sum of money

(perhaps for a gambling debt) proves that new information continues to

come to light. It could, hopes Branscombe, at the very least inspire ''a

superb conference paper'', and it should be of more lasting significance

than the frisbee, complete with Mozart silhouette, he has been sent from

Salzburg as a bicentennial gift.