It is difficult to escape the spirit of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when you’re in Vienna. Though the renowned composer was born in Salzburg, he has been embraced and adopted by Vienna, the city where he produced his greatest works and triumphs. Many of the places associated with his life and works have been lovingly preserved, and in a city synonymous with music and culture, Mozart has the distinction of being its most popular musician, the reason for thousands of visitors making their way to the city every year.
The home of a musical genius
There are many other memorials to Mozart’s life, but the most intimate is the apartment in which he lived with his young family during his time in Vienna. Located in the Stephanplasse area of Vienna, the second floor apartment is spacious and elegant, but bare of all furniture. The only adornment the house offers are original manuscripts, first night programmes, lithographs and other original documents reflecting on the man’s life. There is only one, particularly moving addition to the apartment. Installed in each room is a headset with a dial-up selection of Mozart’s work, and one of the most intimate experiences for anyone who loves the composer’s work is to be able to listen to the elegant strains of a sonata or a concerto while standing in the place where the man himself once lived.
For those inclined to contemplation, the bareness of the rooms can be taken as a reflection of Mozart’s life. Though he was an undisputed musical prodigy, Mozart was also a poor man, struggling constantly with financial difficulties. Though he was a regular at the court of Emperor Josef II, his music was unappreciated and unrewarded by his rich patrons, forcing him to become the first major musician to work without the support of a benefactor, a royal or an Episcopalian court.
The lack of financial support, and his own inadequate management, meant that he sometimes had to beg for such necessities as firewood and food. He also had few close friends, as his complicated character and lack of social graces often drove people away. For a man whose talents should have brought him mansions, a high salary at the imperial court, and a good life amongst the elite, the five room apartment and the constant struggle to survive were a far cry from what he deserved.
Yet despite the sometimes sorry conditions of his home, the apartment was also the birthplace of some of his best work. One of the pieces most strongly associated with Mozart’s house is the Marriage of Figaro. Composed for the Viennese court in 1786, it was one of the first operas to be presented in Vienna, and was wildly popular and Mozart’s house is also known as Figaro House, in its honour.
Mozart’s Final Resting Place
There are many other tributes to Mozart’s memory, but those who wish to see to the final resting place of the man himself must return disappointed. Unlike the graves of many other admired musicians, whose final resting places become flower-festooned pilgrimage sites for their fans, Mozart’s grave has no such tributes. Like most Viennese in those days, he was buried in a common grave in the St Marx Cemetery, the location of which remains unknown. Even the house where he died, at the Rauhensteingasse 8 near his own home, no longer exists, its locations now marked only by a plaque.
Visitors who wish to pay their respects to his memory are left only with the memorial statues. Perhaps the most fitting is the honorary grave in the Zentralfriedhof, or the Central Cemetery, where most of the other famed musicians of the Vienna are also buried. Crowned with a charming statue, the Mozart memorial is flanked by the elegant graves of Beethoven and Schubert, while Struass and Brahms rest not too distantly. The St Marx Cemetery too offers a memorial statue of Mozart in place of his lost grave, with a bed of brilliant flowers fronting a melancholy stone column.
His legacy plays on
There are many other memorial statues scattered about the city, but perhaps the most fitting place to remember the life of Mozart is in the concert halls and the opera houses he so dearly loved. Three hundred years after his ignominious death, his work has become a perennial favourite and staples of any good Orchestra’s repertoire. Performances of his music take place regularly in the music halls of Vienna.
One of the best places to hear his work is the Schonbrunn Palace, where the resident Orchestra gives concerts every evening. In Mozart’s time, the Palace was the meeting place for Viennese high society, and still retains today its air of sophistication and baroque elegance. Another excellent way to hear Mozart’s composition played in all their glory is take in a performance by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, which is famed for successfully recreating the concert experience of the baroque era. Every detail of the performances is aimed at transporting the listener a few centuries into the past — the musicians dress in the most magnificent of historical costumes, complete with wigs, the performances take place in some of the grandest and most baroque concert halls in Austria and the pieces selected are those that were, three hundred years ago, conducted by their original composers in those very same halls. The performances by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra are extremely popular, so advanced booking is essential to secure a seat.
There are many other performances of Mozart’s music constantly taking place in Vienna and even the most dedicated Mozart-lover would be overwhelmed by his popularity there. It is perhaps the most fitting tribute to his memory, for though he was unappreciated by the Viennese elite in his own lifetime, Mozart has nevertheless had the last laugh, as today his works is now one of the biggest attractions Vienna has to offer.