>>>The Sound of Salzburg
Famous orchestra conductor Herbert von Karajan was also born in Salzburg.
Photo: Salzburg Tourist Office

The Sound of Salzburg

In Salzburg “the hills are alive with the sound of music.” It’s a mecca for music lovers, and not just because it’s the birthplace of Mozart and the setting of The Sound of Music.

Seven in ten of Salzburg’s residents can read sheet music and play at least one instrument. Music is in their genes and they start to sing scales practically before they can speak. This small city, which looks straight out of a fairy tale, was the birthplace of Mozart, classical music’s great genius. In the mere 35 years that he lived, he composed over 600 works. His presence pervades the whole of Salzburg, a city that’s more than proud of its most illustrious citizen.

The composer and his melodies greet visitors as soon as they land at the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Airport. One of his compositions plays every hour in the carillon of the Salzburg Cathedral, where he was baptised. The city honours him with two museums. The first, located at number 9 on the city’s main shopping thoroughfare, Getreidegasse, is the house where he was born on 27 January 1756. It presents the composer’s furniture, personal items, some of his instruments, and even locks of his hair. The other museum is located in his second house, at Makartplatz 8-9, which the Mozart family moved to in 1773.

Statue of Mozart playing the violin in Salzburg
Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria.

The Birthplace of ‘Silent Night’

In the city of Oberndorf, 15 kilometres north of Salzburg, Silent Night was composed in 1816. The chapel’s organ broke on Christmas Eve, and in order not to disappoint the churchgoers, the parish priest and the organ player from the neighbouring town composed the Christmas carol and played it on a guitar. Every 24th of December, a choir sings it in several languages.

In St. Peter’s Abbey, at just thirteen years of age, the young Amadeus conducted his first concert. Years later, in the same place of worship, he presented his ‘Mass in C Minor,’ composed to celebrate his engagement to Constanze Weber, who performed as soprano for the occasion. Every 5th December, there is a performance of Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ in the abbey, to commemorate the composer’s death in 1791. Inside St. Peter’s Monastery, where the abbey is located, is one of Europe’s oldest restaurants, Stiftskeller St. Peter. Mozart once sat at one of its tables, and in memory of this, the restaurant offers a daily dining experience featuring dishes typical of that era. Guests are also treated to a concert by musicians dressed in 17th and 18th century clothes.

As a tribute to the composer, the famous Salzburg Music Festival was created in 1920. For six weeks every summer, the entire city turns into a stage, and in theatres, squares, streets and gardens, the most classical of pieces alternate with performances by today’s most innovative artists. Pride of place is given to opera, and international artists perform at the event. These include opera superstar Plácido Domingo, who is a regular. There’s a place, however, for every sort of music and theatre in some corner of the city.

A Unique ‘Magic Flute’

Very close to Mirabell Palace, in the Marionette Theatre, the actors are made of wood. On its stage marionettes perform operas, operettas and ballets, including works by Mozart and the songs from The Sound of Music. The theatre can hold an audience of 350, and its sets are famous for their quality and originality.

Salzburg was chosen as the setting for Hollywood’s most famous musical, The Sound of Music. In the film, Julie Andrews and the charming Von Trapp family traipse round the city to the tune of “Doe, a deer, a female deer, Ray, a drop of golden sun…” The song, performed on the staircase of the Mirabell Palace, turned the site into one of the most photographed in Salzburg. For fans of the film, which won five Academy Awards in 1966, there are various tours—by bus, by bike and on foot—which visit the film’s settings as the soundtrack plays. They also visit Leopoldskron Palace, the home of the Von Trapp family in the movie, which has now been converted into a hotel.

Staircase at Mirabell Palace
Mozart frequently performed at the Marble Hall in Mirabell Palace, where concerts are still held today.
Photo: Anastasia Petrova / Shutterstock

Musical chords set the ‘tempo’ in Salzburg. Over the course of the year it hosts 4,000 cultural events, most of which are centred on music, such as Mozart Week, the Easter Festival, the Pentecost Concerts and the Advent Songs. You can attend a concert practically every day of the year in Salzburg. If Amadeus could see it now, he would feel more than proud of his city and its residents.

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