Austrian Music Festivals Recall a Long Heritage
By Marilyn and Paul Nejelski
|Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg, Austria.
At Austrias many music festivals the music you hear was often originally performed in the room where you are sitting.
Within the space of a few days you can immerse yourself in Mozarts Renaissance and Baroque Innsbruck, Haydns classical Eisenstadt, or Franz Lehars
1910 Belle Époque Bad Ischl.
|Skyline of ancient Innsbruck, where so much great music was created and has been played over the centuries.
Reserve a hotel room and performance tickets early through your preferred online ticket vendor: it will pay big dividends. Take some time before you go to listen to the music you will
be experiencing at the festival and read biographies of the featured composers.
Located high in the Alps, Innsbruck was a center of the Hapsburg empire under Emperor Maximilian I (1493-1519) and
Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780). The Festival of Early Music held each year in August, features music from 1500 to 1750 and is held in castles and churches
reflecting these glory days.
Some of the concerts are held in Ambras Castles 16th century Spanish Hall, celebrated for its splendid wall paintings
of Habsburg sovereigns. One night in this Renaissance jewel box we heard the Tallis Scholars sing music of the 16th century.
|Some classical music concerts are performed at Ambras Castle, in its Spanish Hall.
Full productions of period opera at the Landstheater are festival highlights.
The 18th century cathedral and Wilten Basilica both offer a free Sunday morning mass, with early music by festival performers. During
the festival, organ concerts are performed in the Hofkirche and other historic churches. Costumed brass bands play for free in the old town
on Sunday mornings at 11:30 and in the Ambras Palace garden at various times from May-September. Weekly early music concerts are held at the castle from early
July through mid-August.
|Classical music concerts are often performed in the many churches in Austria.
Fill out the historic experience by visiting some of the more than 20 museums and having a traditional dinner of Tyrolean specialties
and Austrian wine accompanied by zither music at the 600-year-old Goldener Adler Hotel.
When 13-year-old Wolfgang Mozart and his father stayed at the Gasthof-Hotel Weisses Kreuz in 1769, the hotel was already 300 years old.
Innsbruck also has a religious music festival at Easter and a summer dance festival at the end of June and early July.
For 30 years, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) lived and composed in Eisenstadt (population 10,000), performing and conducting almost every evening
at the Esterhazy Castle. Today the 18th century town, only 30 miles from Vienna, makes use of Esterhazy Palace performance rooms and local churches, including
the same organs on which Hayden himself played 200 years ago, for the Eisenstadt festivals in September. Haydns home, only a block from the Palace,
contains original manuscripts and other memorabilia.
We attended an imaginative staging of Haydns opera LIsola Disabitata (The Desert Island) in the
palaces 500-seat Haydn Room surrounded by brilliant Rococo frescos. Another highlight was a free performance
of Haydns Nelson mass, presented in the same church on the 200th anniversary of its original performance.
Another concert series is held at the palace on Saturday evenings from May to November.
Bad Ischl (population 13,000), in the Lake District of Upper Austria about an hour from Salzburg, was Emperor Franz Josephs bucolic
summer capital during his reign from 1848 to 1916. In his home, the Kaiservilla, you can see the desk on which he signed the declaration of war against Serbia
in 1914 starting World War I.
Of the many composers who flocked to Bad Ischl, the one who remains most closely identified with the town is Franz Lehar (1870-1948),
a master of operetta. Gems such as The Merry Widow are easy to enjoy. The home where he summered for 30 years is open as a museum May through
The Festival runs July to September. At the free daily concerts at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. you will sit next to friendly locals and have
a chance to practice your German.
This spa town offers a variety of beautiful walks, and the makings of a fine picnic can be had each Friday morning at a wonderful outdoor
food market. Be sure to visit the city museum and Café Zauner, an elegant pastry shop and coffee house.
Austrian Festival Contacts
Advance purchase of tickets is essential since the venues are small and the performances few. When we emailed Eisenstadt in June,
they told us there were only two tickets for the Haydn opera we wanted to see in September. We took them. Online ticket purchasing services make advance purchases easier if you search for the concerts you wish to attend.
Austrian National Tourist Bureau
The Innsbruck Early Music Fesival
Bad Ischl Festival
MARILYN and PAUL NEJELSKI live in Bethesda, MD.