The Austrian capital city of Vienna is often touted as the “City of Music”. Legendary musicians like Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss lived, composed and played in this imperial city. But Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart appears to dominate the scene. There are several sites in the city associated with the maestro who was born in 1756 in nearby Salzburg, but spent much of his short and eventful life in Vienna.
Mozart presented his first concert at the age of six before Empress Maria Theresa at the Hall of Mirrors. This baroque palace, now a UNESCO cultural heritage site, was built in 1642 as the summer residence of the powerful Habsburg dynasty. The rooms, including the Hall of Mirrors, are decorated in Rococo style with its walls and ceilings covered by white-lacquered surfaces ornamented with gold leaves. The Bohemian crystal chandeliers, the white porcelain tile stoves, the Indian and Persian miniatures and other fittings and furnishings proclaim the opulence of the rulers and their taste for art and culture.
Mozart aged 12, again performed for Empress Maria at the magnificent Hofburg Palace, the Habsburg’s winter residence in the heart of the city. This vast royal complex, comprising imperial apartments, museums, libraries, riding schools and churches, is a testament to architectural styles from the Gothic to late 19th century. It’s said that later — during the reign of Emperor Joseph II — when Mozart settled in Vienna, he was a regular guest at this quarter.
The royals did not want the world to forget Mozart; so, in 1896 a grand statue of Mozart was erected inside the Hofburg Palace grounds. The statue surrounded by beds of colourful flowers should be on any tourist’s itinerary inVienna.
Revered as Vienna’s soul, this majestic cathedral with spindly Gothic spires and mosaic-tiled roof commands attention by its size, setting and surrounding aura. This iconic site is also intimately intertwined with Mozart’s life. His wedding bells rang here in 1782, his children were baptised here and, after his untimely death in 1791, his body was blessed in the chapel inside.
State Opera House
Unfortunately Mozart never played at the State Opera House, as it was completed only in 1869. But this grand auditorium opened with the performance of his famous Don Giovanni. Several of his immortal compositions are regularly played here to mesmerise visitors. Tickets are sold throughout the city by people dressed in period costumes. It doesn’t matter if you are not a connoisseur of classical music; an entry inside the opulent concert hall of the Opera House is a lifetime experience. Patrons dressed in their best evening wear, the performers in historical costumes and traditional wigs and the sound of music from the ensemble of violins, pianos and cellos creates a magical atmosphere.
Mozart resided at various places in Vienna but none of the buildings exist except the one at Domgasse 5 where he occupied the first-floor apartment between 1784 and 1787. Here he composed The Marriage of Figaro. Today, all floors of the building have been converted into a museum, Mozarthaus Vienna. The exhibits comprise documents, pictures and memorabilia and provide comprehensive information on the composer as a family man.
Various documents in the museum tell us that, while in Vienna, Mozart organised concerts at various venues and invited subscriptions from Viennese nobles of the time. In 1784 his concert was sold out, but three years later seats were empty. He then started performing at local cafes. One from that time, Cafe Frauenhuber, still exists. Try the traditional Wiener schnitzel and the amazing potato salad while reminiscing about Mozart.
This was where he spent his last years. The original house, where he started his unfinished Requiem, has made way for a modern department store but the site hasn’t lost its significance. Large crowds still gather at the site, wait in silence and visualise the legend playing the violin or the piano inside an imaginary building.
St. Marx Cemetery
Some devoted Mozart fans journey to St. Marx Cemetery, the maestro’s final resting place in an unmarked grave. This place has been cleaned and redecorated to give a new look.
The city is dotted with shops with lots of Mozart-related items for sale. Of course, the first choice for music lovers is CDs, but there are mini statues, key rings, coffee mugs, glasses and plates with a picture of Mozart embossed on them. There are Mozart chocolates also, shaped like a violin, guitar and piano.
Getting there: Emirates Airlines (www.emirates.com) via Dubai. For visa details, see www.vfs-austria.co.in/
Accommodation: Ring Hotel (www.theringhotel.com) at Ringstrasse located close to the city’s iconic sites.
Best time: July to October
More info: www.vienna.info