Mozart on tour: Celebrate a musical genius on the move

Austria is pulling out the stops for the composer's 250th birthday this year. But you can follow his trail across the cities of Europe. Adrian Mourby maps the movements of the maestro
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The Independent Travel

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is big news in 2006 with Salzburg hosting year-long celebrations for the boy wonder's 250th birthday. The fact that young Mozart couldn't wait to get away from his birthplace will be overlooked as it mounts performances of just about every opera, concerto and symphony he wrote.

The rest of Europe will also be celebrating their Mozart connections for Amadeus was the world's first international musical superstar, travelling at speed from one big event to the next. In fact, there are few cities that Mozart didn't visit. He even got as far as London, Canterbury and Dover.

The motivation for this constant round of concerts was the determination of Mozart's hugely ambitious father, Leopold, to get him into one of the top musical jobs of the time. To do this young Mozart had to be well known, even fought over, by the crowned heads of Europe. Leopold, a ruthless publicist, lined up Wolfgang's first tour before he was eight years old.

In 1762, Mozart and his elder sister, Nannerl, were taken to Munich, Presburg, Linz and Vienna, where the precocious boy leapt into the lap of Empress Maria Theresa and kissed her. Mozart's pyrotechnics as composer, pianist and improviser created astonishment everywhere.

But this trip was just a prelude to the "Great Western" tour the Mozarts made between June 1763 and November 1766. During this time Mozart and his family encountered problems wearyingly familiar to modern-day travellers: over-pricing at Aachen, being booked on the wrong coach between Paris and Nancy, being kept waiting by officials in Brussels and, of course, falling ill.

In London, an excursion to the Tower misfired when young Amadeus was frightened by the lions, which at the time formed part of its zoo. But the family also enjoyed themselves. Both Leopold and Nannerl kept journals describing the palaces and churches they visited. Nannerl even counted the number of steps to the top of the cathedral tower in Ghent. In Lyons, Leopold did what many travellers do: finding it cheaper to have clothes made locally than at home, he equipped the family with new outfits.

After a brief return to Salzburg - just long enough to placate the archbishop, who must have been wondering where his court organist had got to - Mozart and his father were off again, first to Vienna and then, in 1769, on their first Italian trip, which lasted 14 months.

Heading south, they stopped off in Innsbruck, where you can still find their room at the Goldener Adler hotel, and then visited Mantua, where the palace of the prince remained closed to them, much to Leopold's annoyance. In Milan, they were able to secure an opera commission. In Bologna, they visited the celebrated castrato Farinelli on his estate.

In Florence, Mozart wrote home that he was suffering travel fatigue because he had seen "everything there is to see", but in Rome he was delighted by his visit to the Sistine Chapel. After hearing Allegri's nine-part Miserere, the 14-year-old transcribed the piece from memory. By law he should have been excommunicated for breaching the Vatican's copyright rules but instead Pope Clement awarded Mozart the Order of the Golden Spur.

The Mozarts had the good fortune to arrive in Venice during Carnival. For a month father and son mingled with the masquers who thronged St Mark's Square at night. "I really like Venice," wrote the excitable young Mozart to his mother.

All this travelling was expensive, especially as Leopold was determined to make a good impression among would-be patrons. He hired carriages and ensured that father and son were turned out well enough to dine with aristocrats and royalty. Commissions and concerts financed their travels and Leopold frequently wrote home that the whole publicity tour was proving too costly.

When the family reached Amsterdam there was nearly a nasty moment when it was discovered that all public concerts were prohibited during Lent. Fortunately, a dispensation was made for Mozart because the city fathers judged that this "wonder" "served God's praise". The money was greatly needed as Leopold had to buy the pair of them new coats. Amsterdam was freezing and the family's furs had been sent ahead to Paris. Lost luggage was a problem then as now.

Inevitably word got around about the boy Mozart. Passing through Lausanne in 1766, Leopold was met by servants of Prince Ludwig von Wurttemberg who asked them to give a concert. In the event, Mozart gave two concerts and was commissioned to write three flute solos for the prince. Unfortunately, like many of the pieces he wrote on the road, these were lost in transit.

When he wasn't composing, Mozart occupied himself learning the languages of places they passed through. He came back from his travels with a staggering total of 15 under his belt.

After two more trips to Italy, a 14-month round trip to Paris, Mozart achieved his ambition of moving to the Vienna of Joseph II, the centre of music-making in the German-speaking world. Vienna became his home, especially after his marriage to Constanze Weber in 1782. His travels thereafter were less scattershot: a trip to Berlin in the company of Prince Karl Lichnowsky where he managed to secure 12 commissions and wrote to Constanze from the Tiergarten: "I lunched in an inn in the park all by myself in order to devote myself wholly to you."

Towards the end of his brief life, Prague became very important for Mozart. His Don Giovanni and Clemenza di Tito were both commissioned for the National Theatre, and he visited the city three times, always delighted with the reception he received. There's no doubt that what Mozart achieved as a composer is remarkable: that he did so much of it on the road is extraordinary.

Salzburg

WHAT TO SEE

The hugely popular Mozarts Geburtshaus (birthplace) is on one floor of this narrow terrace and houses a museum of the composer's early life.

WHAT TO HEAR

The 'Mozart Dinner Concert' is performed in historic costume at 8pm each evening at the Stiftskeller St Peter restaurant, accompanied by a three-course dinner.

THE CONTACTS

Mozarts Geburtshaus (00 43 662 844313; mozarteum.at). Stiftskeller St Peter (00 43 662 841 2580).

Innsbruck

WHAT TO SEE

In 1772 Mozart and his father stopped en route to Italy at the 14th-century Goldener Adler. At different times Goethe, Heine and King Gustav III of Sweden also stayed there.

WHAT TO HEAR

On 13 August, the 30th Innsbruck Early Music Festival will perform Mozart's Quintet for clarinet and strings in A major in the Spanischer Saal of Schloss Ambras.

THE CONTACTS

Goldener Adler, Herzog-Friedrich Strasse 6 (00 43 512 571 111; goldeneradler.com). Schloss Ambras (00 43 525 24745; khm.at/ambras).

Lausanne

WHAT TO SEE

In September 1766 Mozart gave two concerts at the Hôtel de Ville in Place de la Palud.

WHAT TO HEAR

On 23 and 24 January in the Salle Métropole, the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne will be playing Mozart works composed in 1783.

THE CONTACTS

Hôtel de Ville (00 41 21 315 25 61). Lausanne Tourisme, Avenue de Rhodanie 2 (00 41 21 6137321; lausanne-tourisme.ch). Salle Metropole (salle.metropole.ch).

Prague

WHAT TO SEE

Bertramka, the house where Mozart stayed while he completed 'Don Giovanni' in 1797, is open to the public.

WHAT TO HEAR

The eighth Mozartiana Iuventus festival in September will be premiering new works inspired by Mozart's music.

THE CONTACTS

Bertramka (00 420 257 318 461; bertramka.cz). Mozartiana Iuventus, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 6-30 September.

Paris

WHAT TO SEE

In 1763 Mozart heard mass at Versailles Royal Chapel and he later played the organ for the entire court.

WHAT TO HEAR

In Mozart's day the Paris Opera was in Rue St Honoré. Now it's at the Palais Garnier, where 'Don Giovanni' will be performed from 27 January-25 February.

THE CONTACTS

Versailles (00 33 1 30 83 77 88; chateauversailles.fr). Palais Garnier (00 33 1 72 29 35 35; operadeparis.fr).

Utrecht

WHAT TO SEE

In 1766 Mozart and his sister performed in the Bijlhouwersgildehuis (the guildhouse of the axemakers) on Vredenburg Square and practised at the nearby Schiller Theatre.

WHAT TO HEAR

The new Vredenburg Music Centre will be offering Mozart chamber concerts throughout 2006.

THE CONTACTS

Vredenburg Music Centre, Utrecht (00 31 30 231 45 44; vredenburg.nl).

Ghent

WHAT TO SEE

In September 1765, the Mozarts visited the cathedral of St Bavo and climbed the tower to get a view of the city and inspect the 25-bell carillon.

WHAT TO HEAR

'De Toverfluit', a Flemish version of 'The Magic Flute', between 15 March and 8 April, at the neo-Classical opera house with its stunning foyers.

THE CONTACTS

St Bavo, St Baafsplein. Vlaamse Opera Ghent (00 32 9 268 10 11; vlaamseopera.be).

Venice

WHAT TO SEE

Casa Ceseletti on the Ponte dei Barcaroli Cuoridoro was the home in which the Mozarts stayed in 1771. There's no public access but you can see a commemorative plaque.

WHAT TO HEAR

From 23 to 29 June, the restored Fenice will be staging 'Lucio Silla', which Mozart composed for Milan the following year.

THE CONTACTS

Gran Teatro la Fenice, Campo S Fantin (00 39 041 2424; teatrolafenice.it).

Milan

WHAT TO SEE

Palazzo Reale is where three of Mozart's teenage works were staged. The theatre he knew burned down in 1776, but the palace is open daily.

WHAT TO HEAR

'Ascanio in Alba', a 'theatrical fête' written by the 16-year-old Mozart for Milan, is being performed at Teatro alla Scala in October.

THE CONTACTS

Palazzo Reale (00 39 02 875 672; comune.milano.it/palazzoreale/). 'Ascanio in Alba' will be performed at Teatro alla Scala (00 39 02 72 00 37 44; teatroallascala.org) from 14-22 October.

Vienna

WHAT TO SEE

On their first visit to Vienna, Mozart and his sister played duets in the Schönbrunn Palace and were shown round by Princess Marie-Antoinette.

WHAT TO HEAR

Mozart concerts are scheduled throughout 2006 in various parts of the Schönbrunn Palace, including the Orangery and Hall of Mirrors, where he played the piano.

THE CONTACTS

Schönbrunn Palace (00 43 1 81 113; schoenbrunn.at).

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