Throughout this 3 hour walk, we pause to listen to selections of Vienna’s musical masterpieces on headphones while also exploring the major sites of musical history. Vienna is rightly named the “city of music” as home to the most famous composers of musical history: Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven amongst others. But what made Vienna so attractive for young musicians seeking their fortune? Surprisingly, the most important answer is the Hapsburg ruling family itself.
During the second half of the 17th century, the Emperor ventured to lead not only politics but also the artistic life of the Austrian Empire. Ferdinand III (1608-1657), led by his court-scholar Athanasius Kircher, became a composer in his own right. This tradition was sustained by three generation to Charles VI, the father of Maria Theresia (1717-1780). Even while Maria Theresia herself did not write music, she and her many children participated at opera rehearsals and chamber music sessions held at the Imperial Court. In those days, music was an essential part of the general education within the circles of high aristocracy, and also functioned as a crucial mode of courtly representation. The most renowned musicians of their time were invited to perform at Palace Schönbrunn. The young Amadeus Mozart was a famous attractions improvising on the piano while blindfolded at the age of only six. Over centuries, the Habsburgs served not only patrons of music but also as performers and even as creators of it. Walking through the site of the magnificent Hofburg, this fascinating story about this connection will be unraveled.
We delve deeply into the era of Classical music with its iconic representatives Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Whereas Haydn spent a long period of his life in the service of the very prosperous Hungarian Esterházy-family at their palace in Eisenstadt, Mozart arrived in Vienna in 1781. After quitting his service at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg, Mozart became one of the first freelancers who tried to make his own living by teaching daughters of high aristocrats, performing at public subscribers concertos and, of course, by composing. The city walk will lead to the ancient inner city in the vicinity of the St. Stephan’s Cathedral and to the so-called “Figaro” house, where Mozart lived from 1784 to 1787 and wrote many of his most important operas and instrumental works.
Next, we head to one of Beethoven’s many flats, to the Pasqualati-House at the Mölker-Bastei, which is located directly at the opposite of the University of Vienna. Beethoven had a very restless life in Vienna, changing residence almost sixty times. His music symbolizes the apex of the Classic and is heralded many important developments of the Romantic era. Though his relationship with the high aristocracy was often strained, he called the Archduke Rudolf, the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II, one of his best friends. The circuit of the walk is completed at the residence where Rudolph took piano lessons with Beethoven and was one of his most profound supporters and patrons. Among other compositions, Beethoven dedicated his Missa solemnis to the Archduke Rudolph, a piece which represents the profound interaction in between the Habsburg family and the most important musicians in Vienna during the 18th and 19th century.