This is the house where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756. He lived here for the first seventeen years of his life — when he wasn’t off traveling with his father and sister, which was most of the time.
In 2006, just in time for Mozart’s 250th birthday, a German children’s book was published called Little Amadeus – The Life of Young Mozart by Deborah Einspieler, a dramaturge at the Frankfurt Opera. Her book tells the story of an eight-year-old German boy named Valentin who finds himself locked inside Mozart’s birth house after closing time. He soon meets a friendly but strangely dressed boy of the same age, who turns out to be Mozart himself, or rather his ghost. The two boys spend the night chatting, and Valentin learns about Mozart’s early years as a child prodigy performing at aristocratic and royal courts all over Europe.
About two-thirds of the way through the book Mozart happens to mention the earlier composer Georg Friedrich Händel. Valentin says he has heard the name, but knows nothing about him. “My Mama only always told me about you.”
Mozart suddenly goes red in the face, takes a long look at Valentin and whispers: “I know your Mama.”
After a confused silence he explains: “It was a few years ago. My sense of time deceives me sometimes. But I’m sure that when I spoke with your mother you weren’t even born yet. It happened in February, on a rainy day. Hearts were hanging all over Salzburg.”
So it was on Valentine’s Day, and Valentin realizes how he got his name.
“On a Sunday afternoon she walked through the apartment, and as soon as she came to my portrait I noticed that she was behaving differently from the other visitors.”
“What do you mean?”
“She didn’t just walk through the rooms, but really got involved in them. I felt that at once. I watched her from inside the portraits. Now and then she stopped, observed everything very carefully and looked deeply into the pictures and discovered the life inside them. […] I liked her so I waited for her. As she went past my portrait I winked at her.”
She winked back, and later hid in the museum so she would be locked in after closing time.
Mozart explains to Valentin: “Also there’s another secret that I haven’t told you yet. It has to do with the winking. In the instant when an observer wants to see me, I can appear as I was at the same age.”
Valentin’s mother was in her twenties at that time, so Mozart’s ghost also appeared at that age. But now they can no longer meet because she is too old.
Valentin objects: “Too old? Wait a minute, my Mama’s 36, that’s not old.” Mozart explains that he died at age 35, so she can no longer see him.
The next morning Valentin’s mother rescues him from the museum and whispers: “When I saw the candlelight flickering in the window, I knew you were okay.”
Mozart’s birth house is not wheelchair-accessible, as you can see from these stairs going up to the museum. The Mozart family lived in a rather cramped apartment on the third floor (which Americans would call the fourth floor), but now all the upper floors of the house have been turned into a museum.
Photography is not allowed in the museum, so I can’t show you anything that is inside. My favorite part is the second floor, which is entitled “Mozart as an opera composer”. Though he wrote numerous symphonies, concerti and other orchestral works, he considered himself first and foremost an opera composer, as a text panel in the museum points out.
So far I have seen sixteen of Mozart’s operas and other stage works, most of them many times in different productions and venues. (I’ve posted a list here: Mozart’s operas.)
The back of Mozart’s birth house is on Universitätsplatz (University Square). They have painted the rear façade the same as the front façade, so we won’t get confused about which house it is.
The second Mozart house
In 1773 the Mozart family finally moved out of their cramped apartment (where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born) and into a spacious eight-room apartment on what is now called Makartplatz.
This building was largely destroyed during the Second World War but rebuilt in the 1990s according to the original plans. It is now used as Salzburg’s second Mozart museum. Since this house is larger than Mozart’s birth house, it has more space for exhibits. A combined ticket for both Mozart houses (his birth house and this one) costs € 18.00 (or € 15.00 for those of us who get a reduction). A visit to only one of the houses would cost € 11.00 (or € 9.00 with a reduction – prices as of 2017).
Photography is unfortunately not allowed in either of the Mozart houses, so I can’t show you anything that is inside. But as a Mozart-fan I would recommend visiting both houses and allowing some time to look at the exhibits.
In 2016 the second Mozart house had an interesting temporary exhibition about Franz-Xaver Mozart (1791-1844), the youngest son of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Franz-Xaver Mozart was a composer, pianist, conductor, and music teacher who was quite competent (especially as a teacher) but went through life with an acute sense of not being as talented as his father.
Doppler’s birth house
Across the street from the second Mozart house is the birth house of Christian Doppler (1803-1853), the Austrian mathematician and physicist who is best known for his discovery of the Doppler Effect. This effect “can be described as the effect produced by a moving source of waves in which there is an apparent upward shift in frequency for observers towards whom the source is approaching and an apparent downward shift in frequency for observers from whom the source is receding.” According to the website www.physicsclassroom.com, the Doppler effect “can be observed for any type of wave – water wave, sound wave, light wave, etc. We are most familiar with the Doppler effect because of our experiences with sound waves. Perhaps you recall an instance in which a police car or emergency vehicle was traveling towards you on the highway. As the car approached with its siren blasting, the pitch of the siren sound (a measure of the siren’s frequency) was high; and then suddenly after the car passed by, the pitch of the siren sound was low. That was the Doppler effect – an apparent shift in frequency for a sound wave produced by a moving source.”
Doppler himself first noticed this effect with light waves, while he was studying the light from binary stars.
His birth house, at Makartplatz 1 in Salzburg, is not open to the public.
My photos in this post are from 2016. I revised the text in 2017.