Neurological problems of famous musicians: the classical genre.J Child Neurol. 2009 Aug; 24(8):1043-50.JC
Neurological histories of great musicians allow for a unique perspective on music physiology. Bedrich Smetana's autobiographical string quartet ends with the musical equivalent of tinnitus in the fourth movement, rendering the youthful and passionate themes of earlier movements moot as the piece ends depicting his ultimately fatal disease, neurosyphilis. Dmitri Shostakovich survived the censorship of Joseph Stalin's apparatchiks but suffered a prolonged form of paralysis attributable to slowly progressive motor neuron disease, although the viola sonata he wrote on his deathbed has become standard repertoire. Glenn Gould was a hypochondriacal pianist with obsessive-compulsive disorder and suspected Asperger syndrome. Vissarion Shebalin and (Ira) Randall Thompson had strokes followed by aphasia without amusia. Domenico Scarlatti provides an example of how even great composers must alter their technical expectations depending upon the skills and body habitus of their chief patrons. The focal dystonia afflicting Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman catalyzed the discipline of performing arts medicine.