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Culture

Mozart's birthplace gets a facelift

A visit to Salzburg wouldn't be complete without paying a visit to the birthplace of Mozart. After undergoing renovations, the house now features a new permanent exhibition focusing on the composer's time in Vienna.

Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at age 14, by Savario dalla Rosa

Salzburg and Mozart are inseparable

Getreidegasse 9 is the most famous address in Salzburg. Having undergone extensive renovations since 2007, the birth house of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart now welcomes music fans with a new permanent exhibition entitled "Mozart: Myth and Reverence."

Thomas Wizany, the architect responsible for the renovations, says he was keen to maintain the historic aura of the building, while at the same time equipping it with modern, secure and aesthetic forms of presentation for the highly valuable documents and objects on display.

"This is the fascinating point of this work," Wizany told Deutsche Welle. "You feel that there's a certain spirit in this house. My challenge was to let the house be like it is from this period, how it presents itself, and to make the furniture very timeless."

The maximum number of visitors to the house on a single day totaled over 4,000 – in 2006, the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Such large numbers are challenge for most museums, particularly in a building like Getreidegasse 9, which dates from the 15th century. This was something that Wizany had to bear in mind when coming up with is design.

Documenting a famous life

A romantic portrayal of Mozart's final hours at the new exhibition in Mozart's house of birth

Mozart was only 35 when he died

Mozart was born at 8:00 pm on January 27, 1791, on the third floor of the house, which is located in the heart of Salzburg's old town center. The new exhibition highlights the years he spent in Vienna, which he considered to be "the best place in the world" for his profession. He moved house 13 times during the 10 years he lived there, earning a considerable income but also accumulating huge debts.

An outline sketch of the apartment on Rauheinsteingasse in Vienna, where Mozart lived until he died, shows one room especially devoted to playing billiards. Many of the objects, documents and pictures on display were donated to the International Mozarteum Foundation by Mozart's sons.

"Ninety-nine percent of the visitors in our house don't know that Mozart had children, sons, and here we have pictures of the two sons," said Gabriele Ramsauer, director of the museums and archives. "They gave many pieces from the property of their father to the International Foundation - for instance, the original pianoforte, which is one of the main objects in our museums."

One of the paintings on display depicts an idealized portrayal of Mozart's final hours. The score of the "Requiem" is lying on Mozart's knees, his wife Constanze is kneeling at his feet and his sister-in-law Sophie Haibel is on the other side. In the background, Mozart's friends are rehearsing his unfinished "Requiem."

The Mozart Online room in Mozart's house of birth

Visitors can use computers to learn more about Mozart

Mozart did indeed pass away in the presence of Constanze and Sophie, as well as his blood-letting physician, Thomas Closset. The doctor who carried out the autopsy stated that a "feverish temperature" was the cause of death - a common diagnosis in those days. Shortly before he passed away, Mozart allegedly spoke to his student Franz Xaver Suessmayr about the completion of the "Requiem."

Mozart in cyberspace

As a contrast to the old artifacts, the third floor of the composer's birthplace features a room called Mozart Online. It is equipped with four high-powered computers where visitors can sit at leisure and scroll through Mozart's manuscripts, listen to his music and inform themselves on recent discoveries about his life.

These online tools attempt to help understand the unmatched genius of this world-famous composer.

The museum at Mozart's Birthplace in Salzburg is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, and until 8:00 pm in July and August.

Author: Elizabeth Mortimer / ew
Editor: Kate Bowen

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