One of the most visited museums in Salzburg, Austria, is the Mozart Birthplace or Mozarts Geburtshaus. Spread over three floors, the museum provides detailed information about the early life of the 18th-century composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The exhibits, as well as the building and its location, offer insights about his childhood and family, and the economic, cultural, and educational practices of the day.
Mozart was born in the third floor apartment at 9 Getreidegasse, Jan. 27, 1756. He was the seventh and last child of Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart, and the second of their children to live past infancy. His older sister, Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl, was the other surviving child. Mozart’s father was a court musician, composer and teacher who rented the apartment from 1747 to 1773. All seven of their children were born there.
The buildings along the Getreidegasse were built during the Middle Ages, and still have the detailed guild signs above the door that indicated what type of service or business was offered. Chunrad Fröschmoser, a 16th-century court apothecary, bought the property in 1585 that would eventually become the Mozart Birthplace. The museum still has the symbol he had put on the door that is recognized to indicate the medical profession: the Rod of Asclepius with a serpent entwined on a staff. By the early 1700s, the building was owned by the Hagenauer family and known as the Hagenauerhaus. Merchant and toy maker Johann Laurenz Hagenauer was both landlord and friend of the Mozart family.
For centuries, the city of Salzburg was the capital of the Prince-Archbishopric of Salzburg, an ecclesiastical state and part of the Holy Roman Empire. It was not annexed by Austria until the 19th century. Under the prince-archbishops of the 17th and 18th centuries, prominent painters, musicians and architects were commissioned to build the baroque churches, palaces, parks and fountains that are still part of the Altstadt, the historic Old Town, of Salzburg today. It was in this environment that Mozart’s father, Leopold, was appointed fourth violinist to the court of Salzburg’s ruling prince-archbishop in 1743. This afforded him a steady middle-class income composing and teaching violin and piano to the choirboys of the Salzburg Cathedral. He was later appointed second violinist and, in 1763, became deputy Kapellmeister or assistant music director.
Mozart was born into a well-educated, musical family. The apartment had a kitchen, bedroom, living room, office and small cabinet. The museum has his childhood violin, the harpsichord, and the clavichord he used to compose The Magic Flute. The future composer and musician began his musical training at the age of three by imitating his sister during her keyboard lessons taught by their father. In January 1762, the three of them went on their first tour.
Traveling in the 1700s was not easy. Dirt roads were subject to ruts and mud. Carriages and wagons would get stuck, and passengers were at the mercy of the weather and outlaws. From one post to another was about 15 miles, however, 15 miles during the 18th century took an average of four hours to cover. Accommodations lacked ventilation and good hygiene. The Mozart tours were successful though and made it possible for him to meet kings, princes, counts, and many other members of the European courts. He only lived to be 35 but he was on tour 3,720 days or 10 years, two months and eight days.
In addition to the musical instruments on display, the museum contains his papers, opera scores, family portraits, models of set designs and period furniture. The third floor has been a museum since 1880 when it was opened by the Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg or the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation. Mozart’s son, Franz, had bequeathed the clavichord and entire library of the composer’s estate to the Mozarteum in 1844.
The first exhibition in Mozart’s Birthplace was in 1856, in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth. The Mozarteum Foundation organized the first Salzburg Music Festival in 1877. Lilli Lehmann, the German opera singer and patron of the arts, helped make it possible for the foundation to purchase the entire building in 1917. The Mozart Birthplace Museum is not only about the early life of Salzburg’s most famous composer, but also highlights the history of the city. For more information about visiting the museum, the link to the schedule is listed below.
By Cynthia Collins