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Salzburg and Mozart


How much of Mozart is there in Salzburg and how much of Salzburg is inside of Mozart.

Salzburg is the city of Mozart. Absolutely true. He was born in the then independent ecclesiastical principality. So, Mozart was of Salzburg by birth, not Austria or Germany. Whose was a more conscious choice is another matter. Vienna then has the say.

At eight o’clock in the evening of  January 27, 1756, at the home of Leopold Mozart and his wife Anna Maria, their last child, the seventh in a row and the second to live to adulthood, cried, whom they named Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. Theophilus literally means ‘beloved of God’ or Amadeus in Latin. He later signed himself by this name in various variations – Amadeus, Amadeo, Amade. Thus he remains in the history of music and the memory of mankind. He was born a genius, as if not of this world, and it is no wonder that Salzburg soon bored him. The world at large was drawn to Wolferl, as his own affectionately called him. Archbishop Colloredo, in whose palace orchestra his father played second violin and he himself was appointed organist, remained blind to his boundless talent. And above all, there was no opera in Salzburg. So his hometown began to weigh on him like a shackle.

At the age of twenty-five, he shook it off with scandal to proceed to the last ten, most fruitful years of his life in Vienna. With a kick in the soft backside, the Archbishop’s secretary expelled him from the House of the Teutonic Order, where he was temporarily residing with his retinue. For Mozart, the long-sought freedom had arrived. He returned to Salzburg only once more for a few months to close this page of his life forever. It was his father who connected him to his birthplace, discovering and stimulating his talent early on, respecting and trusting his advice. And his mother, for whom he felt a deep filial affection. She died in Paris during his tour, where she was buried. With his sister Nannerl he shared the passion for music, and together they toured as children throughout Europe. Mozart retained warm feelings for her for the rest of his life.

This much only of Salzburg is in Mozart. The rest is the cosmopolitan in him – Europe, Vienna and always the music he seems to be woven from.

And Salzburg, nearly fifty years after its great son’s death, cared nothing for him, sleeping a deep provincial sleep. Till at last there came word from the wide world that its ‘prodigal son’ was loved and adored. A Committee was formed to erect a monument to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his death, but the city government was unwilling to bear the expense. His admirers collected donations and a year after the jubilee, in the presence of his two sons Franz Xaver and Karl Thomas, the monument was inaugurated. His widow Constance did not live to see it; she had died six months earlier in a house not far from the site of the monument. The square was renamed Mozartplatz, not without strong opposition from the municipality, clergy and citizenry. In 1841 the Mozarteum, an institute for the study of Mozart’s works, was founded, with a collection of his autographs and manuscripts, today one of the most respected music universities in the world. The Mozart wave thus began to gain momentum, gradually flooding Salzburg not only musically but also commercially. It is not clear how happy Mozart would be if he could see his name on the candy, liqueur, cake, coffee, glasses, cards, magnets and all sorts of other souvenirs. I confess, I too feel obliged to buy some of the silver-blue Mozart candies from the Fuerst confectioner every time I come to town, never mind that their price jumps up with each visit. The undying reverence and myriad cultural and musical events bearing his name would probably make him genuinely happy. 

So, there is a lot of Mozart in Salzburg, at every turn. It’s best to judge for yourself on the spot. What I can unreservedly advise is to visit his birthplace, climb the stone stairs where little Wolfherl’s feet used to tap, and explore the sumptuous archbishop’s residence, to feel the parquet floor beneath your feet in the halls where the young Mozart performed his first compositions, to gaze into the mirrors in which he too gazed, to breathe the air of the city that defined itself through its world-famous son.

Salzburg has much more to offer – secular and ecclesiastical architecture, centuries of history, beautiful costumes, flashy shops and always an interesting event. The eyes will delight in the ‘Northern Rome’, the ear in the divine music, the palate in the culinary delights. Add to that the magic of Christmas and you have enough to decide: ‘Now or never’. Better still: ‘Now and again next year’.  

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