Happy 260th birthday, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart’s music is a vibrant today as it was over 200 years ago, and his Vienna home is well worth a visit.

A little night-music, anyone? Café Mozart in Vienna, Austria. (Photo courtesy Vienna Tourism)

VIENNA, AUSTRIA, January 27, 2016 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have been 260 today. He died in 1791 at the age of 35, which means for the citizens of Vienna and the world, there has been a void of 225 years without a new Mozart composition.

Probably most famous for her Nancy Drew books, pseudonymous author “Carolyn Keene” (likely Mildred Wirt Benson) once said of another composer, “Strauss! Oh yes, he was so-so. He wrote pretty music — “The Blue Danube” and “Tales from the Vienna Woods.” But what is that compared to Mozart?”

Visitors to Austria quickly learn that in Vienna, there is no such thing as too much Mozart. (Or Strauss for that matter.)

Mozarthaus, exterior street view, Vienna. (Via Wikipedia entry for Mozarthaus.)
Mozarthaus, exterior street view, Vienna. (Via Wikipedia entry for Mozarthaus.)

For many travelers museums are frequently an acquired taste, but when they capture the essence of a personality or a particular era, they take on a new life. Vienna’s Mozarthaus is one of those places.

Access to the apartment where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his family lived from 1784 to 1787 is from the rear of the building rather than the main street. That fact alone reveals much about the experience visitors find at the only remaining Viennese residence of the genius composer.

Getting to Mozarthaus requires a bit of diligence, but that’s part of the charm. Once there, the entrance to Mozarthaus may also take some patience to find.

To find the way into Mozarthaus, start from the rear of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This magnificent edifice is a centerpiece of the Austrian capital. It is instantly recognized by its elaborately patterned roof featuring nearly a quarter of a million glazed tiles. The roof alone makes it one of the most photographed landmarks in Vienna.

From the back of the cathedral go roughly 100 to 150 yards toward a small archway and walk through until it opens to a narrow avenue that resembles an alleyway more than a street. Domgasse, or Church Street in English, is hardly impressive, but just a few yards to the left is the entrance to Mozarthaus. Don’t expect flashing neon signs or dozens of signposts saying “This way to Wolfie’s house.” In fact, you may wonder at first if you are in the right place.

That’s because the apartments above the museum are still in use today, creating an atmosphere that makes it feel as if Mozart still lives at the site that was his home some 250 years ago. In a sense, the spirit of the great composer continues to thrive in a city that boasts such a rich musical heritage.

To walk up the ancient stone steps and see the sign over the door that simply says “Mozart” gives goose bumps to just about any visitor. Here, life goes on in the building just as it did two and a half centuries ago. As such, there is an aura about the museum that captures the imagination.

For roughly 6 decades, Mozart’s apartment has been a museum in one fashion or another. Much has changed in recent years, allowing the museum to expand to two additional floors. Today the focus within the apartment centers totally around the period in which Mozart lived and worked while in residence there. It is the largest, most elegant and expensive of the composer’s homes.

Curators have been unable to find most of Mozart’s original furniture and furnishings. For that reason the rooms of the apartment/museum are appointed as accurately as possible from written accounts of the composer’s life.

When combined with other elements surrounding this unique venue, it becomes practically impossible not to feel a sense of being in the maestro’s presence during a visit. The design is intentional. It is meant to be an interactive venue rather than a stuffy memorial that fails to capture the spirit of the man who lived there.

It was in this location that Mozart wrote his world famous comic opera, “The Marriage of Figaro” (Le nozze di Figaro”). Even today, this masterpiece of musical theater is frequently performed and revered as a cornerstone of the operatic repertoire, ranking sixth among the most frequently performed operas around the world.

It was also in Mozarthaus where three of the six Haydn Quartets were written. But the back-story makes the main narrative even more intriguing. Already friends with Michael Haydn, during the time Mozart occupied this particular Viennese home, he was often visited by Michael’s more famous brother, Joseph Haydn. It is said Mozart and his friends would hold “jam sessions,” which must have seemed like an 18th century version of the Beatles, as such geniuses improvised music during the era of powdered wigs and silk knickers.

The Mozart apartment itself consists of four large rooms plus two smaller ones and a kitchen. Among the treasured artifacts at Mozarthaus is the stunning Flute Clock, a magnificent timepiece made around 1790, which plays the “Andante for a Cylinder in a Small Organ.” Many experts believe Mozart composed the music specifically for the clock.

In a city enveloped by music, Mozarthaus is a treasure to discover. Vienna’s tribute to one of the greatest composers of all time is tucked within narrow streets that must be very much as they were more than 200 years ago.

As the British novelist once wrote, “There is nothing perfect in this world except Mozart’s music.” As if to verify this statement, the Mozarthaus still stands today as a museum in tune with the times.

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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).

His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

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