Dedicated music lovers have long considered Vienna, Austria to be a heavenly destination where music that makes you stop and pay attention is played in expected and unexpected places throughout the old city. On many pedestrian-only streets and squares, there are accomplished individual musicians, string quartets and choral groups playing or singing for donations or to sell their CDs, and there are colorful traditional coffeehouses whose association with music and musicians goes back centuries.
There are also weekly organ concerts in exquisitely-decorated rococo churches with stain glass that positively vibrates with energy and sound, and at elegantly-decorated concert halls, where orchestras and opera singers transport their audiences to another “real time” when Vienna was the home of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Johann Strauss and Mahler over a period of 150 years.
To focus on just one of these musical supermen for a day, I set out to learn many surprising facts and a few myths about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who moved to Vienna in 1781 and lived there until his premature death ten years later at age 35.
Vienna is a compact walkable city making it easy to go from one place to another in a matter of minutes, so I started at the huge, diverse Haus der Musik/Sound Museum, www.hausdermusik.com/en/-1, taking the elevator straight to “The Great Composers” 3rd floor where there are many rooms and interactive exhibits focusing on the life and music of each composer. This visit will take longer than you think!
Then I was off to explore the recently-opened Mozarthaus Vienna, www.mozarthausvienna.at, on a narrow sidestreet that required serious map consultation. There four floors of Mozart’s social and musical life are showcased in authentic, intimate, not always pleasant, detail.
This is the only Mozart home in Europe that is preserved today. Intriguingly, the museum has assembled excerpts from a number of 20th century movies made about Mozart’s life, and asks visitors to consider which may be the most authentic.
By getting a combined ticket for both museums, just a ten minute walk from each other, there is a special price of €15 (about US$22). Again, this is a “sit and absorb” museum. I topped off my day of Mozart revelations with a memorable concert of the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, www.mozart.co.at/orchester-en.php, which performs many times a year from its repertoire of more than 100 of the master’s works, both orchestral and operatic.
Less well known abroad than the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and considerably younger, founded in 1986, the VMO and its 30 musicians have devoted themselves exclusively to the wide-ranging works of Mozart. It is not only the music one comes to hear, much of it so familiar that humming along is hard to resist, but to witness the charming habit of this orchestra to perform in the style and costume of the 18th century.
The building façade and glittering concert hall interior that transport visitors back to Mozart’s era, all clearly prove that a time warp is not impossible. I did feel wistfully 21st century myself as I sized up those satin gowns from the sixth row. With each performance, a selection of Vienna’s best voices complements the orchestra’s world-class sound, and the overall effect is a sustained magic that every audience is understandably reluctant to let go too easily. It was indeed the finest of endings to my Vienna day with Mozart!
Period-clad singers bring to life Mozart’s best known light opera solos and duets. Vienna Mozart Orchestra
Vienna is such a rewarding city on so many cultural and historic levels that a week would hardly embrace all the attractions. We invite you to enjoy the companion article in our feature article collection, “Exploring Vienna with a Thin Wallet: Ten Tips for Making the Money Last Along with the Memories”.
Alison Gardner is a travel journalist, magazine editor, guidebook author, and consultant. She specializes in researching vacations throughout the world, suitable for people over 50 and for women of all ages. She is also the publisher and editor of the globally-respected Travel with a Challenge web magazine, www.travelwithachallenge.com.