IN SEARCH OF MOZART
If you want to know Mozart the man, then it stands to reason you have to eventually come to grips with Salzburg and Vienna. Itís the only way youíll ever discover what made the man tick and why his music endures.
For, when you walk in his footsteps, as I have over the years, youíll understand more about him, the times that influenced his music, and the two spectacular cities that he called home.
Austria is arguably the world's most user-friendly country. If you can't like Austria you might as well stay home, because you won't like being anywhere.
Outside the major cities is an endless abundance of cows and barns, many of which have small cozy houses attached to the front; tiny little mountain roads that run very close to the edge of eternity; and plenty of towns and villages with wooden churches that have tall spires.
It's this sense of place and of size that was instilled in Mozart at an early age - a view of the world that he couldn't have rejected in his own music even had he chosen.
Once the heart and soul centre of Europe's greatest power, the Austrian Empire, Vienna is now arguably the world's largest and most charming museum.
In tracing Mozart's 10 years in Vienna (1781-91) you begin at St. Stephen's cathedral that was started in the 11th Century and finished in 1433. Its 137 meter-high (448 ft.) church tower remains the city's landmark.
After his marriage to Constanze Weber there, St. Stephen's is where five of their six children were baptized, and where he earned a living at times as assistant Kapellmeister (conductor). The small chapel to the left of the entrance is where his funeral was held.
The old Vienna that Mozart lived in can be seen by taking the elevator to the observation platform in the North Tower. Look down on the courtyards, the small streets, and the shops in the old city and you're seeing Mozart's town.
Behind St. Stephen's, at 5 Domgasse, is the Figaro House, the grandest of the thirteen residences in which Mozart lived. Thirteen residences may seem like a lot, but the figure pales when compared to the 50-odd apartments in which the cantankerous Beethoven eventually lived.
And it was in this apartment that he composed feverishly, works that included 11 piano concertos and his opera, the Marriage of Figaro.
Considering that Mozart hated Salzburg and after he left for Vienna returned as few times as possible, the city fathers have been downright forgiving.
Today in Salzburg, Mozart is almost everything - though many go there to explore the picturesque sites where The Sound of Music, was filmed. Take a city tour and youíll find that Julie Andrews and Mozart meet often.
The ghost of Mozart stalks every corridor, every alleyway, and every intimate concert venue. For a taste of the way Mozart might have heard and played his own music head for the Mirabell Palace where chamber concerts are held throughout the year in the ornate, intimate surroundings of the concert hall.
In Mozartís time the city was a commercial centre, named for its extensive salt mines, and had little in the way of cultural activity compared to Vienna. The lack of a cultural character is why Mozart left.
His Geburtshaus (birth house) dominates the inner city. Then, like now, the area was a narrow lane of shops in the town centre. The apartment is a museum, of course, and undoubtedly the busiest place in town.
Both Wolfgang (christened Johannes Chrysotomus Wolfgangus Theophilus) and his sister Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl, were born at the Getreidegasse apartment, though the family later moved across the River Salzach to a bigger place at No. 8 Markartplatz.
Take a break from the history lesson and stop off at one of Wolfgang's watering holes, the Sternbrau at 34 Greisgasse, where he was a regular when old enough.
And the Stiftskeller St. Peter is one of Salzburg's famous eating and wine spots - a direct descendant from when the Monks at St. Peters Monastery had their own huge wine cellar and started selling both food and wine in the 17th Century. It's assumed that both Wolfgang and Michael Haydn tippled a few there.
IF YOU GO:
Information on Salzburg: https://www.salzburg.info/
PHOTOS: Courtesy Austrian Tourist Board.
1. Downtown Salzburg with the Hohensalzburg Castle
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