The Sounds of Salzburg
Salzburg’s musical roots were planted long before Julie Andrews twirled with outstretched arms on a bright green hilltop. Home to one of music’s most creative geniuses and one of the largest classical festivals in Europe, this lively city is mere minutes from the German border. Perched along the banks of the Salzach River, Austria’s fourth-largest city is known for its beautiful Baroque-style architecture and rich musical history.
Birthplace of a master
In 1756, the musical landscape of Salzburg would be altered forever. On Jan. 27, the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. Although most of his creative years were spent traveling through Europe and eventually settling in Vienna, Salzburg was home to Mozart during his formative years. Today, you can retrace the footsteps of this musical genius throughout the city.
For classical music lovers, start at the very beginning — his birthplace at Getreidstraße 9 on the edge of the Salzburg Altstadt. Visitors can walk through three floors of Mozart’s life. Exquisite original portraits and paintings line the walls. Gaze upon a violin from his childhood, as well as the clavichord on which ‘The Magic Flute” was composed. You can also visit the Mozart family residence at Marktplatz 8. Although the building was razed to the ground during World War II, it was meticulously reconstructed and reopened as a museum.
The Salzburg Festival
Officially inaugurated in 1920, the Salzburg Festival has grown into one the largest and most esteemed classical arts festival in Europe. Set among the beauty of the city, visitors can enjoy phenomenal opera, philharmonic symphonies performing many of Mozart’s famed works, as well as breathtaking ballets. Every year, the polarizing performance of Jedermann (Everyman) is one of the highlights of the festival. Although many artists have played the Salzburg Festival, arguably one of the city’s most famous acts got its start at the fest in 1936 — The von Trapp Family Singers.
The hills are alive …
Most of us know the Hollywood version of the von Trapp family — widowed Capt. Georg von Trapp falls in love with and later marries Maria, his children’s governess. They begin performing together, eventually fleeing the impending Nazi occupation of Austria. While there are several discrepancies between the real story and the fictionalized account, “The Sound of Music” left an indelible mark on the city.
In 1965, Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews brought “The Sound of Music” to life on the silver screen. Much of the film was shot on location in and around Salzburg. Fans can visit the Nonnberg Abbey, where Mother Superior encouraged Maria to “Climb Every Mountain,” or the garden at Schloss Hellbrunn where Liesel lamented the hardships of being “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” To see the fictional residence of the von Trapp family, you’ll have to visit three different locations: Schloss Frohnburg, Schloss Leopoldskron and Schloss Hellbrunn. Skip and sing your way through the vibrant Mirabell Gardens, or just enjoy the bright blue skies from beneath the fountain at the Residenzplatz.
Visitors can opt to visit locations on their own, or take one of several guided tours available. While “The Sound of Music” tours are among the most popular, there are plenty other excursions offered for classical music enthusiasts. With bustling cafés, amazing architecture and a fantastic music scene, Salzburg’s rich history makes it well worth visiting.