Mention Vienna and you can’t fail to evoke thoughts of one or more of its famous musicians. From Mozart to Brahms, this grand city has either given birth to or hosted a dozen who permanently reside in the pantheon of the greats.
Joseph Haydn has intimate ties to Vienna and for ten years even sang in the Vienna Boys Choir, starting in 1740 at age 8. St. Stephan’s Cathedral heard not only his voice but his violin playing. In his late 30s, he left to become Kapellmeister in Eisenstadt, but returned briefly in 1790, becoming one of the cities most famous citizens.
Mozart began his musical instruction by age 4, performing for the Hapsburg monarchs at age 6 in the Hall of Mirrors at Schloss Schonbrunn. Empress Maria Theresia was so delighted he became a court favorite, finally moving to Vienna in 1781 at age 25.
Here, after a short stint with the Archbishop of Salzburg as an employer, he became the official musician of St. Peter’s Church in Innere Stadt. He was married in Stephansdom and later moved his family to an apartment that can be seen today in the First District. Burggarten holds an outstanding Mozart memorial.
Franz Schubert also sang in the Vienna Boys Choir, beginning in 1805 also at age 8. He composed for them as early as age 14. By 1814 he had produced solo piano pieces, string quartets, and his first symphony. A manuscript contains, in his handwriting, an inscription he wrote on leaving the choir. It says, “F. Schubert has crowed for the last time.”
The great Beethoven received his education in Bonn, Germany but moved to Vienna in 1787, studying with both Mozart and Haydn. He made his first public appearance here at the Vienna Burgtheater. Vienna’s adopted son debuted several of his famous works here, including the Symphony No. 5 and his opera, Fidelio. A frieze created by Gustav Klimt that is a pictorial representation of Beethoven’s famed 9th Symphony is on display at The Secession.
Of course, no composer is more closely associated with Vienna than Johann Strauss, Jr, born in October of 1825. He gave his first concert here at the Dommayer in Hietzing, a suburb of the city. He was educated by his father, also a renowned musician of Vienna. By the time of his father’s death in 1849, Strauss had already assured his fame as the waltz composer of the ages.
Though he’ll always be remembered for the Blue Danube, Strauss composed much more than waltzes. His first operetta, Die Fledermaus, premiered in 1871 and he went on to great success as a composer for the stage, penning 17 operettas in all.
While Brahms was born in Hamburg, he is often associated with Austria’s capital, thanks to becoming manager of the Vienna Singers’ Academy in 1862. His love for the city is obvious in such pieces as ‘Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien’.
Visit Vienna and take in many of the sights that have remained unchanged since the days of these musical giants.