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Music Tour Vienna Review: Mozart, Beethoven And Who Set The Tone

Music Tour Vienna. If you are a classical music connoisseur go from sound to power of music: Once I went beyond nights at the Staatsoper and tracing composers in Vienna, I finally understood that there was more to Vienna’s ‘capital of music’ label than a tourism tag. 

To begin with, the Mozart House, the Beethoven House and top music venues such as Musikverein are certainly the most visible puzzle pieces of Vienna’s musical history. But who really set the tone in Wien? And why had music called the tune in this capital for so many centuries (and still does)?

My Vienna Music Tour

music tour Vienna: State Opera

Music tour Vienna.  Gilles, my local guide picked me up just behind the Vienna State Opera

As we watched the building from the Albertina museum’s terrace Gilles rolled out Vienna’s music scene of the 18th and 19th century: Essentially, the Habsburg Empire’s carefully steered music industry excelled as a political power tool and social glue.

More politically than financially, their music business was as important as Hollywood and Bollywood together today. But not because we had so many native geniuses…

Music Tour Vienna: Emperor Leopold I

As a matter of fact, the Emperors adored music, for the sheer love of it, but also for power and influence. Leopold I, aka ‘the Austrian sun king’, composed several suites and dances and participated in plays. The photo shows him as Acis in the play ‘La Galatea’.

Since the Habsburgs also supported musicians and composers Vienna soon became THE capital of music. 

If you listened to Gilles, the beginnings of the Vienna State Opera were actually fit for a great opera plot itself: There were tales of an annoyed Emperor and of suicide, of fulminant opera premieres and dramatic flops.

Until then I had had no idea of the Vienna Philharmonics’ relationship with Johann Strauss and of Gustav Mahler’s ground-breaking opera reforms. But it greatly helped to connect the strings.

A Very Personal Access

music tour Vienna: Eroica HallMusic tour Vienna. Across the Albertina square we headed for Lobkowitz Palace. While the ‘Palais’ today hosts the local Theater Museum its Eroica Hall (photo) was also the venue of one of Beethoven’s biggest triumphs.

Since that gem of a baroque hall was temporarily closed we decided to sneak into the unlocked room.

Beneath marble columns and a breathtaking ceiling painting I learned how to read a fresco. Meanwhile, I listened to Beethoven’s Eroica symphony on Gilles’ audio phone.

NOTE: The original tour uses headphones throughout so that you hear key pieces of music along the way of the sites and monuments that help you explore music in Vienna.

music tour Vienna: tour guide Gilles

When we explored the ‘science fiction of baroque operas’ Gilles’ passion shifted up a gear. I had heard so much about his amazing biography. Actually, the amazing opera ‘sci fi’ stage sets were as fascinating as his personal career in the art and music world.

Born in Switzerland, my guide studied piano and dance at the Geneva Conservatory. Years later, he worked as an opera set and costume designer all over Europe.

An art history, arts and antiques expert, Gilles now works with Vienna’s top opera houses and theaters as a stage and costume designer and lectures at the University of Music and Performing Arts, if he doesn’t share his passion with travellers.

Vienna’s Most Surprising Concert Halls

music tour Vienna: St. Stephen's CathedralMusic tour Vienna.  Since there were no formal concert halls at Beethoven’s and Mozart’s time tracing their triumphs is a challenge for the average visitor.

Who would have known that Mozart performed his first subscription concert in what is now a prime luxury hotel? Or that both Beethoven and Mozart performed music at Vienna’s oldest coffeehouse?

Clearly, Stephansdom (photo) was a major concert hall in those days for music celebrities such as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his mentor Antonio Salieri and Italian master violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi.

music tour Vienna: courtyard of Order of Teutonic KnightsWe moved on to other hidden concert halls that once saw Haydn and Beethoven celebrate their biggest successes. The Academy of Sciences (Akademie der Wissenschaften) boasts a splendid hall where concerts were performed.

Imagine Haydn’s spectacular 76th birthday party, with Beethoven among the crowds, and Haydn’s ‘Creation’ flooding the baroque hall … If you ever do this tour, double check with Gilles that this hall is open during the time of your tour.

Another less obvious musical place was the house of the Roman Catholic Order of The Teutonic Knights (photo).

Actually we went there for two reasons: first to ‘relive’ Mozart’s fateful incident with a representative of his Salzburg employer there; and second, to peek into the Sala Terrena, where even today regular Mozart concerts are performed. On top, the romantic courtyard with its historic ‘Pawlatschen’ galleries was just an amazing discovery.

And Other Surprise Finds

Music tour Vienna. During our whole tour, Gilles made Vienna’s well-trodden paths buzz with musical references: Emperor Joseph II’s statue for example reminded of Wolfgang A. Mozart’s key employer.

In a narrow alley close to the famous Mozart House was Mozart’s 13th and last accommodation in Vienna. In this very house of Freemason Mozart you will find Austria’s Grand Freemason’s Lodge today. As we studied the masonic symbols my guide lifted the veil off the Freemason network among top musicians and artists in Vienna at that time.

music tour Vienna: Haydn and Mozart

What I had always found challenging was to connect musicians with each other. Did Mozart and Beethoven ever meet? Were Haydn and Mozart (photo) befriended? And where did Schubert fit in?

Definitely the most surprising personality for me was Italian Pietro Metastasio, the darling song writer of Habsburg Emperors. Unlike any other artist’s, his most pleasing and highly regarded songs and dramas commissioned for Imperial celebrations speak volumes about the power music held in Habsburgian politics.

The Mozart Haus

music tour Vienna: Mozart houseMusic tour Vienna. If you have seen cult film ‘Amadeus’ you probably won’t leave Vienna without having seen Mozart’s house. As most music guides do, Gilles steered me towards Mozart’s most famous local residence near St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

In total, Mozart lived there for three years and composed some of his most popular works during this time. I had visited the Mozart House Vienna before so we managed to stick to our three hour schedule.

Book The Music Tour Vienna

If you would like to join this guide or other passionate music guides for a private music tour email me at barbara.cacao(at)vienna-unwrapped.com.

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