Vienna and Salzburg are marking 200th anniversary of composer's death


March 03, 1991|By Carolyn Hughes Crowley

You know that I am immersed in music, that I am busy with it all day -- speculating, studying, considering," Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote to his father. And throughout 1991, the two Austrian cities in which Mozart's music is rooted will immerse themselves in his astounding achievement of 626 works -- all written by age 35.

Salzburg, where he was born, and Vienna -- "for my profession the best place in the world," Mozart wrote -- where he spent his 10 last and most productive years, will hold musical events to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the composer's death.

In Vienna, musicians will perform all Mozart's string quartets and all his piano sonatas in the Grand Gallery of the 1,140-room Schoenbrunn (Beautiful Fountain) Palace. The Vienna Chamber Opera will perform "The Magic Flute" there twice a week during July and August.

At this former Hapsburg summer residence, built between 1695 and 1749, Mozart performed at the age of 6 in the Hall of Mirrors. Just before he began playing, he turned to court musician Antonio Salieri, saying, "I'll play, but you have to turn the pages." After his performance, he climbed on Empress Maria Theresa's lap to kiss her and announced when he was a grown man he would marry one of the archduchesses present, Marie Antoinette, then not yet 7.

Today 40 rooms are on view, including Napoleon's study with tapestries depicting military life, and the Millions Room, decorated from floor to ceiling with rare wood paneling and Indian and Persian miniatures set into gilded rococo frames. Behind the palace lies the large formal park, divided by 40-foot hedges and two lovely fountains, including Neptune's Fountain with its sea goddess Thetis accompanied by naiads, water gods and fabulous creatures. Visitors should climb the spiral staircase to reach the platform of the "gloriette" to see the extensive view of Vienna and the Vienna Woods and the garden parterre with about 200,000 flowers.

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna's landmark in the heart of the city, is where Mozart was married in 1782 at age 26 to 20-year-old Constanze Weber, and where his body rested briefly in 1791 on the way to burial.

At St. Stephen's Cathedral on Dec. 5, under the direction of Sir Georg Solti, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra will give a free performance of Mozart's Requiem, his last work. That date is exactly 200 years after Mozart's death from "acute military fever," as his death certificate states; in an overwrought state, Mozart became obsessed with the idea that his Mass for the dead was intended for himself and that he would not live to finish it.

"Here is my death-song," he wrote to the librettist of three of his works. "I must not leave it incomplete." His premonition came true; he died while in the midst of the work. His favorite pupil completed the Mass from Mozart's sketches, with some additions of his own.

Mozart was buried in St. Mark's Cemetery, now a walled garden with 30 different types of lilac, gnarled old trees, white and pink chestnut trees, 100 species of bird, dense shrubbery and wooden benches. He received a third-class burial, individual interment with little ceremony. Shortly afterward, the gravedigger could only remember that Mozart's coffin was lowered into an opening near a lilac shrub. Today a bronze tablet reading "Mozarts Grab" (Mozart's grave) points to a 4-foot-tall sculpture of an angel or genius with an unlit torch gazing at a column. The inscription reads: "W. A. Mozart 1756-1791."

Mozart created his greatest number of musical pieces in an apartment house on Schulerstrasse (5 Domgasse), where he lived from 1784 to 1787. It is now a museum called Figaro House. Beethoven, then 16, auditioned for him there. After hearing Beethoven play, Mozart exclaimed, "Watch out for him. He will cause a stir all over the world!"

Haydn was a visitor, too. He declared to Mozart's father, "I swear to you . . . that your son is the greatest composer I know, either personally or by reputation."

Today, to the sounds of Mozart's music the white Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School perform their courbettes, levades and caprioles in the baroque, chandeliered Imperial Palace's riding hall, built between 1729 and 1725. The breed was started in 1580 and proved itself battlewise and then capable of executing in perfect balance difficult exercises like the polka and the quadrille.

Using thigh pressure, reins and audible signals, riders lead the large-chested, short-legged horses -- 16 to 18 hands, all with powerful hindquarters and necks -- over the sawdust and tanbark floor in the riding hall, which stands 180 feet long, 59 feet wide and 56 feet high. The horses begin training when they are 4 years old and continue performing into their 20s and 30s.

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