by Andrew Pacholyk, MS. LAc. ~
This entire journey unfolded from two little pictures that were given to us over 15 years ago. The apartment we moved into was occupied by a woman for over 50 years. Upon her death, she had no family or friends left to leave her worldly possessions to. Before moving in, the superintendent asked us if we would be interested in some of her collectibles. So we inherited a beautiful marble table, an amazing bronze angel teetering on a marble pedestal and two little pictures, one of Beethoven and one of Mozart. We had also rediscovered the movie version of Amadeus and fell in love all over again with the music and locations in the movie (which were suppose to be Vienna, but was actually shot in Prague). Of course, Mozart had been in my life since I was 12, learning to play the piano and throughout my years as a classical dancer, but that little picture, made me start to look deeper at the man and his legendary status.
It then became a dream of mine to visit some of the places Mozart lived, worked and made his mark. This past year I made the dream a reality and booked a flight to Vienna. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is considered classical musics’ wunderkind of all time! The celebrated composer was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756 and this is where our journey began.
From Vienna, we boarded a train early in the morning to Salzburg. It was a beautiful day and the train took us through some spectacular countryside. Small towns with picture perfect houses and sacred little churches would appear over every knoll. The homes were adorn with colorful flowers spilling over their balconies. Lush green fields and sturdy pines stretched up toward the clear blue sky as the train delivered us into the city of Salzburg.
Salzburg sits on the banks of the Salzach River, at the northern boundary of the Alps. The mountains to Salzburg’s south contrast with the rolling plains to the north. Salzburg’s “Old Town”, Altstadt, has internationally renowned baroque architecture and is one of the best-preserved city centers north of the Alps. Salzburg has a long musical tradition itself and it is where the sound of Mozart echoes round every corner. This pretty city is filled with music lovers from around the world who come to enjoy the Mozart Festival during Mozart Week, which is organized by the International Mozarteum Foundation each January around Mozart’s birthday. The festival offers opera productions, as well as, orchestral, chamber music and soloist concerts. People flock here anytime of the year to see where the genius was born and blossomed.
Our first stop in following Mozart’s footsteps, took us to the Mozart family home on the third floor of the “Hagenauer House” at Getreidegasse 9. The celebrated composer was born here. The International Mozarteum Foundation first installed a museum in Mozart’s Birthplace on June 15, 1880. We were lead through the original Mozart rooms containing historic instruments, documents, memorabilia and most of the portraits painted during his lifetime, including the unfinished oil painting “Mozart at the Piano” painted by Mozart’s brother-in-law, Joseph Lange, in 1789. We also were able to view Mozart’s childhood violin, his concert violin, his clavichord and the harpsichord.
After a tour of Europe, Mozart, the child prodigy and his family, returned to Salzburg and moved into the Tanzmeisterhaus where he lived from 1773 to 1780. Before Mozart relocated to Vienna, he wrote many cherished symphonies, concertos and operas here. The re-built Tanzmeisterhaus is now a very nice museum with a self guided tour that gives the visitor interesting history along with displays of the composer’s original drafts and sheet music written in Salzburg, Mozart’s original pianoforte and interesting antedotes about the Morzart and his family.
Next stop, Prague. Mozart was often said to have had a very special relationship with the city of Prague and its people. Prague is a magical city! Situated in the northwest corner of the country on the Vltava riveris, “Praha” is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. For many centuries, Prague was the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and was also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It played an important role as home to the Habsburg Monarchy, as well as the Austrian/Hungarian Empires. This stunning Gothic and Renaissance city is a journey back in time! It is embellished by a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violent destruction of twentieth century Europe. Some of the most breathtaking landmarks include Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter, the Lennon Wall, the Church of the Infant of Prague and Petrin Hill. It is also the place of one of my most favorite sunrises!
During Mozart’s time, Prague was a very musical city. Whenever he would play there, the people of Prague would give Mozart and his music such an enthusiastic reception, he was once heard saying, “My Praguers understand me”. Mozart’s opera, The Marriage of Figaro, which premiered in Vienna, was produced in late 1786 in Prague with tremendous success. The world premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, took place in Prague on October 29, 1787 at the Theatre of the Estates. Mozart also wrote, La Clemenza Di Tito for the festival accompanying Leopold II’s Prague coronation as King of Bohemia in November 1790. So, while in Prague, we followed Mozart’s tracks. We visited the Mozart Museum, which was the reconstructed Villa Bertramka, where the composer stayed with his friends. We were also lucky enough to get tickets to hear the Prague Symphony Orchestra play Mozart’s Symphonies No. 40 & No. 41 in the exquisite Prague State Opera house. What a wondeful experience!
The train pulled into Vienna in the evening. We found our hotel and ventured over to the Schonbrunn Palace, where the resident orchestra gave a concert of Mozart’s music. Schonbrunn Palace is a former imperial 1,400-room Rococo summer residence in Vienna. It is one of the most important cultural palaces in the country and is one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The palace and stunning gardens illustrate the tastes, aspirations, and intrigue of the Viennese high society. It still retains its air of sophistication and baroque elegance. Mozart’s music resonated through the great hall. The musicians were dressed in historical costumes, complete with wigs and played with great fervor. I found it awe inspiring to realize that three hundred years earlier, the great showman conducted his original compositions in these very same halls. What an end to an amazing day!
A beautiful sunrise, escorted us to Stephansplatz, a square at the center of Vienna. It is named after its most prominent building, the Stephansdom, Vienna’s cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world. St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. A memorial tablet gives a detailed account of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s relationship with the cathedral, including the fact that he had been appointed an adjunct music director here shortly before his death. This was his parish church when he lived at the “Figaro House” and he was married here. It was 1782 when he married Constanze Weber. It is also here that two of his children were baptized and his modest funeral was held in the Chapel of the Cross.
From 1781 – 1791 was considered Mozart’s “Vienna Period”. It was during this time that the composer created the masterworks that ensured his immortality! These would include his Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos, the Singspiel, The Abduction from Seraglio, the Haydn Quartets, the Dissonance Quartet,; the Hoffmeister Quartet; the Sonata No. 4 in F major for Piano 4 Hands, the Symphony in E flat, Symphony No.41 in C major, Jupiter, his great operas including The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte, The Magic Flute, La Clemenza di Tito and the Requiem.
I think the most beautiful part of the journey for me was a visit to the Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof). Located in the outer city district of Simmering, on the fringe of Vienna, this vast and sacred ground is like a park with breathtaking monuments and ceremonial tributes to death, like no other place I have ever seen. Lovers of classical music find this an amazing sightseeing stop. The Musicians’ Corner of the cemetery is graced with beautiful fresh flowers, as well as gifts from strangers to the biggest names of classical music including Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss, Schubert and Bach. In the very center of this corner is a tall obelisk in honor of Mozart. The day was warm and the breeze gentle, as we looked upon a tribute to the greatest minds of classical music! Mozart died on December 5th 1791. City records show that he was placed in a wooden coffin and buried in a plot with 4 to 5 other people. A wooden marker was his grave marker. It is believed that Mozart is buried somewhere in Vienna’s , but the exact location is not known. Great confusion centers around the current “grave” due to the unfortunate circumstances of the composer’s resting place and the lack of any definite markers.
Yet, during his very short life, Mozart produced more than 600 published works including 15 masses, 49 symphonies, 20 operas, 17 organ sonatas, 26 quartets, 17 piano concertos, and dozens of other compositions for various combinations of instruments. I have created a playlist of some of my most favorite classics for your listening pleasure.