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Vienna: City of Famous Composers

Updated on January 6, 2014

Vienna, as the great music composer Mozart put it, was "for my career the best place in the world". Many musicians have called the capital of Austria home for certain periods in their lives, among them are the greatest names in history of music like Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and of course the city-favourite Mozart (in Vienna one cannot escape Mozart. Or Strauss for that matter). Thus, it is natural that Vienna honours her famous residents in various ways. Out of personal interest as well as a challenge to myself, I tried to visit as many memorials of the great musicians as possible during my vacation in Vienna.

Brochure introducing the composers' houses that are open to the public
Brochure introducing the composers' houses that are open to the public

"Musikerwohnung" - Residences of the composers

Some of the houses in which the great composers lived have survived until today: the grand apartment of Mozart close to St. Stephen cathedral where he lived in his most prosperous years and composed "The Wedding on Figaro" (which is also the only one of his residences that still exists), the house where Joseph Haydn resided following his return from London to Vienna until his death (Brahms "has" a room here because his own residence was destroyed), three places of Beethoven (one where he composed the famous "Eroica", the holiday house where he wrote his Heiligenstadt letter expressing his despair at the loss of hearing, and one where he composed the opera Fidelio), the childhood house of Franz Schubert and his brother's house where he died, and the apartment of Johann Strauss the Waltz King. They are acquired by the city and converted in to museums open to the public. Tourists can find information about them easily through fliers at the city hall or tourist offices. On the other hand, actually finding these houses can be a bit difficult, especially to a direction-challenged person like me. The famous composers, great as they are, were no aristocrat with lavish and easy-to-spot residences. Their houses are in different corners of Vienna and blend into the surrounding residence areas. However, this little quirk has its own charm: when walking through the small lanes and climbing the often narrow staircases, I felt like I was actually visiting someone. At one of Beethoven's flats, the mailbox even has his name among the names of the people currently living in the building.

As can be expected, the most important artifacts being exhibited in these houses are the original music scores of the pieces written when the composers were living there as well as the music of the time close to that particular period. There are also contemporary pamphlets and advertisements about the performances of their music, and their letters as well as diaries. It is probably impossible for the furnishings to be preserved or restored to the state as they were when the composers lived there (in truth some houses can be considered some what empty with nothing besides some original documents and images). However, there are several personal belongings that many people would find interesting such as Mozart's clock (for which he composed a short piece), Haydn's hapsichord, and Schubert's glasses (the ones that are seen in all of his portraits). Images of people important to the musicians' lives also present together with information about the time they lived. Last but not least, at every house, recordings of famous music pieces, most of the time those that were composed there, are offered in haspichord-shaped machine. Listening to the music surrounding by stories and mementos from the lives of their authors is a memorable experience.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A room of the exhibition inside Mozart's house.The view from Mozart's house, which is said to have been unchanged since the time he lived there.The plate introducing the house where Joseph Haydn lived his last years and wrote the two compositions "The Creation" and "The Seasons"The staircase in Haydn's house connecting the servants' rooms downstair to his rooms.Haydn's gardenThe staircase leading to Beethoven's "Pasqualati" apartment (where he composed his only opera "Fidelio" and other works, including the probably most well-known piece in classical music "Fr Elise".Beethoven's mailbox :). As you can see, the building where his apartment is located is still currently in use.The yard inside the building of Beethoven's apartment. And the composer lived on the highest floor!Outside the house in Heiligenstadt, a Viennese suburb famous for its spa. Beethoven stayed here hoping to cure his increasing deafness. When that proved impossible, he wrote the so-called "Heiligenstadt testament" expressing his desperation. The origThe front of Franz Schubert's childhood house. More exactly, his family occupied only one apartment in this building, and it is really small.
A room of the exhibition inside Mozart's house.
A room of the exhibition inside Mozart's house.
The view from Mozart's house, which is said to have been unchanged since the time he lived there.
The view from Mozart's house, which is said to have been unchanged since the time he lived there.
The plate introducing the house where Joseph Haydn lived his last years and wrote the two compositions "The Creation" and "The Seasons"
The plate introducing the house where Joseph Haydn lived his last years and wrote the two compositions "The Creation" and "The Seasons"
The staircase in Haydn's house connecting the servants' rooms downstair to his rooms.
The staircase in Haydn's house connecting the servants' rooms downstair to his rooms.
Haydn's garden
Haydn's garden
The staircase leading to Beethoven's "Pasqualati" apartment (where he composed his only opera "Fidelio" and other works, including the probably most well-known piece in classical music "Fr Elise".
The staircase leading to Beethoven's "Pasqualati" apartment (where he composed his only opera "Fidelio" and other works, including the probably most well-known piece in classical music "Fr Elise".
Beethoven's mailbox :). As you can see, the building where his apartment is located is still currently in use.
Beethoven's mailbox :). As you can see, the building where his apartment is located is still currently in use.
The yard inside the building of Beethoven's apartment. And the composer lived on the highest floor!
The yard inside the building of Beethoven's apartment. And the composer lived on the highest floor!
Outside the house in Heiligenstadt, a Viennese suburb famous for its spa. Beethoven stayed here hoping to cure his increasing deafness. When that proved impossible, he wrote the so-called "Heiligenstadt testament" expressing his desperation. The orig
Outside the house in Heiligenstadt, a Viennese suburb famous for its spa. Beethoven stayed here hoping to cure his increasing deafness. When that proved impossible, he wrote the so-called "Heiligenstadt testament" expressing his desperation. The orig
The front of Franz Schubert's childhood house. More exactly, his family occupied only one apartment in this building, and it is really small.
The front of Franz Schubert's childhood house. More exactly, his family occupied only one apartment in this building, and it is really small.

Graves at Central Cemetery

Though not all composers were born in Vienna, they became permanent residents there. In life and in death. Vienna honours its illustrious residents by offering them a resting place or at least a monument at the historic Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof in German). These monuments are placed an area known as Ehrengraben ("honoured graves") right in the centre of the cemetery.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Beethoven's grave at ZentralfriedhofMozart's grave at the nearby St. Marx FriedhofArnold Schoenberg's grave.Johannes Brahms's graveFranz Schubert's graveMozart's memorial in Zentral Friedhof.
Beethoven's grave at Zentralfriedhof
Beethoven's grave at Zentralfriedhof
Mozart's grave at the nearby St. Marx Friedhof
Mozart's grave at the nearby St. Marx Friedhof
Arnold Schoenberg's grave.
Arnold Schoenberg's grave.
Johannes Brahms's grave
Johannes Brahms's grave
Franz Schubert's grave
Franz Schubert's grave
Mozart's memorial in Zentral Friedhof.
Mozart's memorial in Zentral Friedhof.

Miscellaneous

Besides the above mentioned places, the memories of the great composers live on in numerous other ways. First of all, their music are still being play, in formal performances and other places (especially the two beloved Mozart and Strauss, their names and their music are everywhere). There are temporary exhibitions about the musicians that are connected to the city one way or another. Lastly, although it is also full of commercialization, merchandise related to the composers can be found very easily. Thus, one can see how important music and their composers are to Vienna

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mozart and Strauss' music is performed half of the week in Vienna during the summer months. They are truly the favourite composers of ViennaConcert ticket sellers on the street of Vienna.Exhibition at the State Opera Museum about Gustav Mahler, who used to be Director of Hofopern (Court Opera House, predecessor of the current Austria State Opera House) and had a love-hate relationship with the Viennese."On the blue Danube" a.k.a "The unofficial national anthem of Austria" is played at the so-called "Opera Toilet" in the subway station near Opera House.To show that I'm not making up the "Opera Toilet".The famous statue of the "Waltz King" in City Park.Various Mozart merchandise...and "Mozart Kugel" (a famous brand of chocolate)Plaque marking that one is close to Mozart's house
Mozart and Strauss' music is performed half of the week in Vienna during the summer months. They are truly the favourite composers of Vienna
Mozart and Strauss' music is performed half of the week in Vienna during the summer months. They are truly the favourite composers of Vienna
Concert ticket sellers on the street of Vienna.
Concert ticket sellers on the street of Vienna.
Exhibition at the State Opera Museum about Gustav Mahler, who used to be Director of Hofopern (Court Opera House, predecessor of the current Austria State Opera House) and had a love-hate relationship with the Viennese.
Exhibition at the State Opera Museum about Gustav Mahler, who used to be Director of Hofopern (Court Opera House, predecessor of the current Austria State Opera House) and had a love-hate relationship with the Viennese.
"On the blue Danube" a.k.a "The unofficial national anthem of Austria" is played at the so-called "Opera Toilet" in the subway station near Opera House.
"On the blue Danube" a.k.a "The unofficial national anthem of Austria" is played at the so-called "Opera Toilet" in the subway station near Opera House.
To show that I'm not making up the "Opera Toilet".
To show that I'm not making up the "Opera Toilet".
The famous statue of the "Waltz King" in City Park.
The famous statue of the "Waltz King" in City Park.
Various Mozart merchandise
Various Mozart merchandise
...and "Mozart Kugel" (a famous brand of chocolate)
...and "Mozart Kugel" (a famous brand of chocolate)
Plaque marking that one is close to Mozart's house
Plaque marking that one is close to Mozart's house

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