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Growing up, like any typical Asian child, I learned how to play a musical instrument.
At age 5 I started the violin and then picked up the piano at 11. Music has always been a part of who I was and while I don’t play as much as I would like to now, all that knowledge and love for it is still within me.
My parents surrounded our house with famous musical works. Growing up, you would be more likely to hear Mozart or Bach blasting from our speakers rather than the latest pop hits. This at home immersion complemented the musical education I was receiving and it wasn’t before long that I started studying music history. It is a requirement in order to receive certain exam certifications.
You wouldn’t believe the lives of some of these composers. They all had such wild and interesting lies. Scandal after scandal, struggles with poverty despite their celebrity status, and the occasional mental illness. They definitely were a lot more interesting to learn about than what was happening in my Canadian history lessons at school!
Europe as a continent is fantastic for a classical music lover. You can follow in the footsteps of famous composers, see what they saw and understand how it may have inspired their work. After previously learning about the lives of all these composers, it’s so cool to finally see and experience these places in real life.
While in Austria, I made it a point to go to Salzburg. Why? So that I could visit the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He isn’t my favourite composer, that honour goes to composers from the Romantic era like Chopin and Debussy, but he was one of classical music’s most influential and important composers. A child prodigy, he began his prolific composing career before the age of 5 and performed for Empress Maria Theresa at aged 6 at Schonbrunn Palace.
The Childhood Years
Mozart was born in 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. His address? 9 Getreidegasse. The Mozart family lived on the third floor from 1747 to 1773. Today the building is owned by the Mozart foundation who has turned the building into a museum.
I love the shockingly bright yellow of the building. I didn’t visit the inside of this museum, though. I was planning on visiting the Mozarthaus in Vienna and didn’t want to be overwhelmed by all things Mozart.
From 1773 to 1781, the Mozart family moved to another location in Salzburg which offered the family a larger living space. With 6 other siblings, that is a lot of people in a tiny space! This building is also open for touring.
Mozart was employed as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg, Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. In his honour, there is a square named after him: Mozartplatz where you can see a monument in his name. Despite his many successes, Mozart grew increasingly unhappy with the limitations of Salzburg and tried to find a position elsewhere.
For another overview of Salzburg and Mozart, check out this post from The World is a Book.
A-5020 Salzburg, Getreidegasse 9
Admission € 10
9 am – 5.30 pm (last entry 5 pm); July / August: until 8 pm (last entry 7.30 pm)
A-5020 Salzburg, Makartplatz 8
The Vienna Years
Mozart moved to Vienna in 1781. His apartment at Domgasse 5 near St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is the only standing apartment that remains during Mozart’s time in Vienna.
He lived in this location from 1784 to 1787 in which he did the majority of his composing within these walls. This period was the height of his fame and popularity with works such as his opera, the Marriage of Figaro being composed here.
Photography is not allowed inside. While walking around the apartment you can gain an appreciation for the time period, but the museum lacked anything that actually belonged to Mozart. While I wouldn’t recommend going here on its own, there is a combined ticket (“Wiener Museumsmelange” ) offered with the Haus der Musik. In hindsight, I should have gone into the museum in Salzburg instead.
Domgasse 5, 1010 Wien, Austria
Admission: € 10
Hours: daily from 10 am to 7 pm (last admission 6.30 pm)
To commemorate Mozart’s time in Vienna, there is a statue with a monument dedicated to Mozart in Stadtpark.
The Later Years
While in Vienna, Mozart’s situation worsen because of the economy and general level of prosperity. The aristocracy wasn’t as interested in spending money on music. To compensate, Mozart did a great deal of traveling in hopes of increasing his income. He grew ill while in Prague and became confined to his bed shortly after while in the midst of composing his final work, the Requiem.
Mozart became obsessed with the idea that this Mass for the Dead was intended for himself and that he would not live to see it completed. He passed away on 5 December 1791 at aged 35 of unknown causes.
Mozart was buried in a common grave. Unfortunately, the grave was unmarked within St. Marx’s cemetery and its exact location has not been located. Instead, there is a monument erected in his honour in the cemetery. In his short life time, Mozart composed over 600 works
Officially his record says he died of “severe miliary fever”, referring to a rash that looks like millet seeds, but in modern medicine that means little. This has lead to a lot of speculation from poisoning to malpractice from the doctor. As for his requiem? His premonition had come true and the work was completed by a pupil of his, Franz Xavier Süssmayr.
I wasn’t able to visit St. Marx’s Cemetery, but went to the nearby Zentralfriedhof where many other notable composers were buried. There is a cenotaph erected in Mozart’s honour among the other composers as well.
St. Marx’s Cemetery
Leberstraße 6-8, 1030 Wien, Austria
Simmeringer Hauptstraße 234, 1110 Wien, Austria
To complement your musical tour a visit to the Haus der Musik in Vienna is really worth it. It is one of the best music museums that I’ve been to. Everything is interactive and you really have a lot of fun playing around with music and exploring the exhibits.
Once your Mozart tour is over, you can take home a piece of Mozart with the Mozartkugel aka the Mozart ball.
I really have no idea why this is attributed to him, but they’re everywhere in Salzburg and Vienna (you even see them in Budapest even though Mozart never went there). The original ones are wrapped in blue foil, but you’re likely to see another kind wrapped in red foil. The chocolates are a green pistachio marzipan covered in a layer of nougat which is then dipped in chocolate.
Whether or not you’re a Mozart lover or even a classical music lover, the two cities of Vienna and Salzburg are full of interesting nods to musical history.
Do you enjoy classical music? Who is your favourite? Have you followed in the footsteps of famous people before?