Like March, today roared in like a lion and sputtered out with a whimper, museumly speaking. I had set aside the day to focus on Vienna as one of the most musically creative centres of all time.
The classical period from 1730 to 1820 began with the “First Viennese School” of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and peripherally, some 50 years later, Schubert. Haydn, born in 1732, invented the symphony. Mozart followed, born 24 years later. He took Haydn’s harmony to new levels. Beethoven came along in 1770, and think how he developed the treatment of the motif, in the 5th Symphony, for example. Bum-bu-bu-buuuuum. The three never collaborated, but knew, respected and inspired one another. How did all of these creative geniuses come together in one city within one another’s lifetime? How does the creativity of one person inspire creativity in another?
If money drew these artists to Vienna, what attracted the patrons to these musicians? What brought painters to Florence in the 1400’s, what brought the Medici to the painters? What brought writers to 1920’s Paris, who brought the salons to Paris? What electricity finds its ground in these artists, these patrons, in these unique times and places? What comet struck Vienna, bringing the creativity, like water, from the universe? In Top Ten: The Vienna Four, Anthony Tommasini, chief music critic of the New York Times attempts to answer this last question in a blog I’ve attached in the link above.
I started at the Haus der Musik to get an overview. At one time the Palais of Archduke Charles, today’s House of Music was also the residence of Otto Nicolai, who founded the Vienna Philharmonic concerts here. This museum is a great place to bring the kids, lots of experimentation with sound.
I went straight to the top, to the Composers’ rooms.
The museum has rooms dedicated to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, Mahler, and the Second Viennese School of Schönberg, Berg and Webern – all the displays are multi-media, interactive and fun as well as educational. Mahler’s family designed his room in a forest setting. Haydn’s room contains his pet parrot – the actual stuffed deceased parrot – what might it sing if it could talk now? There was lots of music, of course, and fascinating manuscripts. Beethoven’s passion flooded out of him through his pen – mad scribblings, doodles, notes, changes and sidenotes. I had filled my itinerary with concerts by these composers and this museum brought them to life.
The floor also had several large circular screens which projected the Vienna Philharmonic and they reacted to your baton, so you were the Virtual Conductor.
Next I went to Mozarthaus, a sweet apartment tucked right in behind Stephensdom in the heart of Vienna. Mozart and his family lived here from 1784 to 1787 during his most prolific and successful years. He wrote the Marriage of Figaro here. While few furnishings remain, the view from the window today is the same Mozart would have seen. To someone Mozart-curious, there was a lot of interesting detail, and his soaring music always inspires. There were wonderful touches, such as the fiery red portraits. Heinrich Heine said, “his music makes us feel as if we were present when God created the world.” I floated away.
I may have floated to the stars on Mozart because I was unable to come down to earth and navigate my way to Pasqualatihaus, Beethoven’s museum and former home. Flummoxed again! Gave up and made my way back into the town centre and noticed the temperature had dropped considerably, deliciously recalling winters of my past. I remembered reading that Demel Cafe has been open since the 1700’s and that all the noble ladies would annually meet at Demel’s Cafe for a cup of hot chocolate on the first cold day of the year, so where else would I want to be?
Vienna’s coffee craze was born in 1683 (more than a century before Schubert arrived on the scene). When the invading Turks left Vienna that year, they abandoned hundreds of sacks of coffee beans. The Emperor gave a man named Franz George Kolschitzky some of this coffee as a reward for providing information that allowed the Austrians to defeat the Turks. Kolschitzky then opened Vienna’s first coffee shop. The Viennese passion for coffee continues to this day.
After refortifying I decided to switch gears, but there are many more composers’ homes/museums for another visit. Time to do a bit of shopping and soaking in Vienna’s great vibe. The Museumsquartier was open late this evening, a hub of art and culture with several museums and theatres, so I could do that later.
In 1679, Vienna was visited by one of the last big plague epidemics. Fleeing the city, Emperor Leopold I vowed to erect a mercy column if the epidemic would end. The monument was inaugurated in 1693.
The two museums I was most interested in inside the Museumsquartier were the Leopold, housing modern Austrian art including many Klimts and the world’s largest collection of Egon Schiele, and the Mumok, Museum of Modern Art, home to Warhols and Picassos, among others.
After tracking down the box office and buying my pass, I bounded into the courtyard and headed to the Leopold. No. The Leopold is closed for a special event, come back tomorrow. Right. Hopped over to Momak. Must check my coat and camera? Ok. No. Coat check doesn’t take cameras, use a locker? Ok. Load my locker. Oh, not free like the others? Ok. Do you have a 2 Euro coin for the locker (she asked at the 2 Euro coat check)? No? Change is back at the box office?
And with that I threw up my white flag, threw my gear back on, walked back to the box office – and kept on walking til I reached my hotel room. It was a great day nonetheless and an evening to put my feet up was welcome. Tomorrow is another day!