04 September, 2017

Walking With Giants (3) Papa Haydn

The Esterházy Palace
The bus drew to a stop and the driver stood, turned and looked down the bus at us and, with a smile, pointed and called out to us Schloss  Esterházy, Schloss  Esterházy!" For just over an hour we had journeyed  through the lovely Austrian countryside, passing through picturesque villages  and watching lightning flash across the horizon as a thunderstorm crashed above and torrential rain fell from the sky – then, as the storm cleared and the sun came out, we at last passed the sign “Eisenstadt” on the edge of the town. Unsure where we should leave the bus we looked anxiously for some guidance. We need not have worried, the driver had remembered our enquiry an hour before as we had climbed onto his bus: “Is this the bus to the Esterházy Palace at Eisenstadt?” Pat had asked in halting German?  We grabbed our bags and thanking the driver, who was still smiling and pointing across the road at a large entrance gate, we got off his bus, and stood in the now brilliant mid morning sunshine, our destination reached.
Coffee & a small slice of Sachertorte to keep us going!

Early that morning we had navigated the Viennese underground and found our way to the Sud Tyrol Bus Bahnhof to take the local bus from Vienna to visit this place. In a way, to visit Eisenstadt  was the principal object of our musical pilgrimage down the Danube taking in the musical towns – Salzburg, Vienna and the rest  (see previous two blogs). Our holiday had been planned around taking the opportunity of going to places that are linked with composers and music that we love and this was our last day before returning to the UK. I had spent much time prior to our trip researching how we could get to Eisenstadt and what there was to see when we got there. Fortunately it all came in useful; the marvels of Google and the internet serving us well and with the help of that friendly bus driver we had arrived at our destination. Little did we know as we stood by the bus stop that we had come to such a wonderful place - this was a place and a day trip that would always stay with us, a real highlight of not only this holiday but of all holidays.

For those not of a musical inclination Eisenstadt may be an unknown. Indeed it is not as famous as Mozart’s Salzburg or the Strauss family’s Vienna, it doesn’t have the name of JS Bach or Beethoven associated with it; nor is it a great city with a world famous concert hall or opera house home to one of the great orchestras of the world (although, as I will explain later, its concert hall is indeed renowned in musical circles). No, Eisenstadt is a quieter, less well known venue; a country town, a retiring place with perhaps a more gentle history – but what a history! This small town, deep in the Austrian countryside, is in truth one of the great musical venues of the world, forever associated with one of the “fathers” of western music and more than that: the town’s musical history also made it a key player in the history and the great and good of European history. This was the home of Joseph Haydn a composer who is very special to us both and this place was the main reason for our whole holiday and our trip that day.
Papa Haydn

For most of his working life Joseph Haydn worked here at Eisenstadt; a product of his age and the high culture of 18th century Europe, he rubbed shoulders with the great musical, political, social and royal names of that time. Immersed in music from an early age Haydn composed  and built up a repertoire and reputation that few have matched both in his time and since as he worked both within and for the aristocratic “establishment” of the Hapsburg Empire and witnessed the great events and people of the late 18th and early 19th century.

He was an innovative musical ground breaker taking the symphony, the sonata and the string quartet to new heights; he created the basis of much of what we musically accept and enjoy today and it is doubtful that his young contemporary Mozart or the great Beethoven or indeed any of the other wonderful musical names who followed him would have achieved their successes quite so readily had it not been for Haydn. He spent most of his working life concentrating on the music of the palace and the concert hall – opera, symphony, chamber music - and then in the last part of his life produced some of his (and the world’s) greatest religious masterpieces: the Creation, the Nelson Mass, the Seasons  and the Te Deum – all of which are now part of the staple diet of choirs great and small throughout the world. He spent the majority of his life at the magnificent but remote Esterházy Palace at Eisenstadt  – but later in his life found huge recognition, fame and fortune on his visits to other European capitals but especially to his beloved London where he became a much loved and musically respected visitor in the late 18th century.
All the other composers owe much of their fame to Haydn

The music of Haydn has always been amongst our favourites but of all his works it is the great choral music that Pat and I love: especially the Creation, the Te Deum, the Seasons and, my own favourite, the Nelson Mass. These are works to not only to enjoy musically but to be moved by: their grandness, their mighty choruses, their sheer musicality, and their wonderful celebration of mankind and of heaven and earth are among the pinnacles of western music's achievement. Haydn’s choral music enriches the very soul – not only making us feel better but it makes us dream of better things. I once remember listening to a radio programme and as the introduction to playing the Credo from the Nelson Mass  the radio presenter said “Quick, go outside, switch on your car radio at maximum volume and with the car doors open, let the whole street hear this and I guarantee that everyone will come out smiling”. Well, I didn’t take his advice, I wasn’t quite as sure as he that my neighbours would so appreciative,  but I knew what he meant – the music of Haydn is music to make you feel better and to uplift you on the greyest of days.  Our love of Haydn’s music was the reason for our bus trip, but there was more. Because his music is such a staple of choral music we knew the stories associated with it and with Eisenstadt and Esterházy; we had heard them so many times – indeed I have written of them so often when writing the Ruddington & District Choral Society’s programme notes – so we wanted to see these places that we had heard and read so much of but never actually visited.
In the Haydn Haus

And so, we crossed the road, the bus disappearing into the town centre and walked through the entrance gate to be confronted by one of the most glorious buildings that I have seen: Schloss Esterházy. An exquisite gem of a place – not a mighty palace such as Versailles or the Schönbrunn – but absolutely beautiful, standing on a slight rise with the brilliant blue sky behind it. This was the home of the Princes of  Esterházy – a family of what we might today call “power brokers”, “wheelers and dealers”, “prime movers” in the mighty Austrian Hapsburg Empire of the 18th century. The  Esterházy family knew everyone who was anyone in the aristocratic, political and high society life of Europe at that time and it was working for this family that Haydn spent the majority of his life.

With Papa Haydn at the Haydn Haus
Haydn was humbly born in the tiny Austrian town of Rohrau, where his father made carts. His mother was a cook. When he was 8, the young Joseph went to Vienna to sing in the choir at St. Stephen's Cathedral (see previous blog). His younger brother Michael joined him and a tale tells that the young Joseph’s voice began to break. The Kapellmeister, Herr Reutter, gave Joseph’s part in the ‘Salve Regina’ to brother Michael, who sang it so beautifully that he reportedly received twenty-four ducats in gold from the Empress Maria Theresa. Reutter, anxious to retain the musically gifted Joseph suggested that Joseph’s voice might be preserved, and even improved by sending him to the court chapel, which contained at least a dozen castrati. Haydn’s father, however, having heard of the proposal rushed to Vienna to save his son!

After the young Haydn left the choir, he supported himself by teaching and playing violin, while studying counterpoint and harmony and in 1761 as his skills and talents became more widely praised he was named Kapellmeister at the palace of the Esterházy family in Eisenstadt. Away from Vienna and to a degree isolated from other composers and musical trends in the relatively remote town he was, as he put it, "forced to become original."
Prince Nikolaus Esterházy - 
one of Haydn's employers. What a great service
his family did for the cause of music!
It was his job to write music for the Esterházy princes, and to conduct their orchestra. He composed a vast number symphonies, operas, religious works, string quartets, and other kinds of other music for performance at the Esterházy court. While he rose in the family's esteem, his popularity outside the palace walls also increased, and he eventually wrote as much music for publication as for the family. Several important works of this period were commissions from abroad which, later in life,  encouraged Haydn to travel. He was a good businessman and music publishing made him and his music famous all over Europe. After he retired from working for the Esterházy family, Haydn made two very successful trips to England, where audiences treated him like a superstar flocking to his concerts, and it was during his time in England that he generated some of his best-known and most loved work, including the Surprise, Military, Drumroll and London symphonies. In the final years of his life his old employers, the Esterházy family invited him back and he stayed there until his death.

In his own life time and still today Haydn is often referred to as “Papa” Haydn. This originated as a term of affection bestowed on him by the musicians at the Esterházy court where he was seen as a father figure, somebody who willingly gave advice and who was highly respected as a musician. His benevolent authority and willingness to intercede on behalf of any players who might find themselves in trouble became well known and thus the practice of calling Haydn "Papa" became increasingly popular. As time passed  this term of affection spread beyond  Esterházy to Vienna and  then to wider Europe as his role in the development of classical music became obvious. Consequently and increasingly, therefore, fellow composers, musicians and the music loving public referred to him as the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet"  - “Papa” Haydn. 
We gasped as the guide opened the doors and we saw this: the Great Hall
With all this in mind we walked up the grassy slope to the front of the Esterhazy, checked the opening times and then decided that a morning coffee and a slice of the famous Austrian Sachertorte would be a good way of celebrating our arrival! Sitting in the morning sun, enjoying our coffee and cake, the Eszterházy just a few yards away across the lawn, it seemed quite unbelievable that we were sitting where Papa Haydn might well have sat or walked – and certainly seen what we were seeing; this beautiful palace that was so much part of his life and so much a part of the history and development of western music is still today vey much as he knew it.
The Great Hall ready for a concert - what must Nelson have thought as he sat here

One could listen to nearly every one of Haydn’s works and be overwhelmed by his sheer musicality and composing skills; and whilst each one has its place in the history and development of western music there is more. Because of the position that Haydn enjoyed in working at Eszterházy his works have greater resonance and significance – they reflect the feelings, the personalities and the great events of his age. Haydn was writing for the Esterhazy court, a place although removed from Vienna still of great European importance where the great and the good, the “movers and the shakers” of the continent were regular guests. Haydn’s music was written for these people and the events that shaped the Europe of his time – and indeed still resonates in our world today - and of all his works his Missa in Angustiis, my own favourite, written just as the 19th century was dawning, illustrates well Haydn’s place in the music and the history of Europe.
Part of the wonderful ceiling 

In early 1798 Napoleon, in the wake of the French Revolution, assembled a substantial invasion force and sailed east into the Mediterranean. The news soon reached British naval intelligence but by the time that Nelson, in command of the British fleet, located the force off Egypt, Napoleon had captured Malta and most of Egypt. Nelson, catching the French fleet at anchor in Aboukir Bay, immediately attacked and annihilated it, and his victory, popularly known as the Battle of the Nile, reverberated around Europe and beyond. Nelson, following his dramatic victory sailed his fleet into the harbor at Naples and was immediately and ecstatically heralded as the 'saviour of Europe'. Napoleon, in a desperate situation, dodging British frigates, returned alone with just his general staff to France to plan his next move.

It was at this stage that, so far as Nelson - and ultimately Haydn - was concerned, fate appeared in the form of Lady Hamilton. Sir William and Lady Hamilton were well regarded in Naples; Sir William a diplomat -  'our man in Naples' - and she a woman regarded as one of the beauties of the age. Nelson fell for her and a ménage-a-trois was soon established. The Admiralty in London, upon learning of this, ordered Nelson to return forthwith to England but Nelson was unwilling to comply with alacrity – he was, after all, the toast of Europe and enjoying the adulation of both the continent and Lady Hamilton; he was, and he knew it, “untouchable” so he dragged his heels. At last, after several months sojourn enjoying the sun of Italy and the undoubted charms of Lady Hamilton the great Admiral reluctantly arranged to travel back to London overland on a slow  and circuitous route with the Hamiltons. The route included Vienna, and from there Nelson and his companions visited Prince Esterházy at Eisenstadt in 1800 where, records tell, he was greeted as a hero and spent several weeks enjoying Hapsburg and Esterházy hospitality.
The Small Hall - you can get married here today!

Amongst his other court duties Haydn was required to produce a new Mass each year for the name-day of the Princess Esterházy and in the summer of 1798, he had composed a Mass for the Princess  which he catalogued as Missa in Angustiis ('Mass for Times of Distress' – as they undoubtedly were in Europe as Napoleon threatened before Nelson’s great victory).  It is Haydn's largest Mass, and one of his most well-known and best loved choral works – many regard it as his greatest work. He could not have known of the Battle of the Nile until weeks after the Mass was finished, so the work was certainly not written to celebrate Nelson’s victory. 
However, Missa in Angustiis was performed for the name day of the Princess Esterházy and to honour Nelson on the great man’s arrival at Eisenstadt, and to celebrate his service to Europe. Nelson was, apparently, both moved and overjoyed and he and  Haydn became friends;  some accounts suggest that Nelson gave Haydn a gold watch which the Admiral had capture at the Battle of the Nile, and in return received from the composer the pen that Haydn had used to compose a cantata in honour and praise of Lady Hamilton.

The conquering hero: Admiral Nelson
Eventually and reluctantly, the Admiral and his entourage had to depart and make their way back to London. Nelson, however, did not suffer the ire of the Admiralty for his wayward behaviour with Lady Hamilton; the liaison was soon forgotten by Nelson’s masters because within months of his arrival home he was once again at sea confronting Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805). This was, of course, when Nelson perished but his death and his great victory guaranteed him immortality and the grateful hero worship of the nation and the whole of Europe; it was also at that point that Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis quickly gained a new and increasingly popular title in recognition of the great man who had again saved the continent from Napoleon's designs. It was a name that it still keeps today: the Nelson Mass.

At the time that the Nelson Mass was written Haydn was in his sixty sixth year and at the height of his fame, the most celebrated musician of the late eighteenth century and the first of the great triumvirate – Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven . It is not insignificant that the Nelson Mass was written in the same year as his popular choral work, The Creation – both  are works  reflecting Haydn’s joyous idyllic celebration of an ordered enlightened universe, an ideal vision that contrasting with the turbulence of the Napoleonic wars and both reflecting Haydn’s perfect attunement to the spirit of the age.
A contemporary bust of Haydn

So, we paid our few Euros to take a guided tour of the Palace; what a bargain! Of all the places that we have visited and all the entry fees that we have paid out over the years this was, for me, one of (if not the) most worthwhile. It was an absolute joy. The Palace is a gem, beautifully maintained, it is large enough to be impressive but small enough to take in and feel lived in. With the help of the excellent guide we toured the rooms and it was easy to imagine Haydn walking there and knowing well the spaces in which we walked. The intimate family rooms, the servants’ (and musicians’) quarters the art treasures, the narrow passage ways and hidden stairs so that servants and ladies in waiting could enter their master’s and lady’s chambers unobtrusively all seemed so lived in and fresh – one could almost touch the past. This place was no dusty antiquity but a living breathing home, where, it seemed to me, Haydn, his musicians, the servants and the great Esterházy princes and princesses had just stepped outside for a few moments!  As I gazed at the art work on the walls depicting Emperors and Empresses , Princes and Princesses and as I moved from one room to another I fully expected Horatio Nelson or his Lady Hamilton or Papa Haydn to suddenly confront me as they made their way to dinner or to the Chapel or to their own apartments. The whole place was living history.  But there was one room which for me (and I think every other member of the small group that comprised our tour) which was very special and when the guide opened the door for us to enter there was an audible gasp from us all.
The Lady Di of her day? - Emma Hamilton,
Nelson's mistress and muse

The Great Hall which in Haydn’s day was used for the great gatherings – splendid dinners, balls and concerts - was where Joseph Haydn would have conducted his newly written works. It was here where Nelson and his entourage sat with the other dignitaries as they listened to Haydn's string quartets or the Creation or, most importantly, the Missa in Angustiis: the Nelson Mass. Compared with many of the world’s great concert halls this is a small place, but what a place; a riot of glorious colour and high baroque design, a place to overwhelm and to impress! Even today and despite its relative smallness it is acknowledged as one of the great concert halls of the world and acoustically one of the finest and as we stood there listening to the guide it was easy to picture Haydn walking in to take his place at the front of his orchestra and choir and of hearing one of his symphonies, or string quartets filling the room. As I stood there I wondered what Nelson must have thought as he sat there and the first notes of the Nelson Mass struck up and the soaring voices of the choir and then the soprano began the glorious and uplifting Kyrie Eleison . Did he look up to the wonderful ceiling above his head or to the richly decorated walls of the room? If he did – and he must have done – then seeing the glorious room in which he sat, surrounded by the great and powerful of Europe, Lady Hamilton by his side, he the centre of the world’s adulation and Haydn’s wonderful and uplifting music in his ear, it all must have confirmed to him his own invincibility; in modern terms he must have thought “ I've made it! It doesn’t get better than this!”
Original scores

The tour over too soon, we left the Palace and made our way down the side street to find Haydn’s House. It sits in the shadow of the Palace just a few hundred yards away and like the Esterházy is quite magical. We wandered its floors, almost feeling the presence of the great man who had lived here for so many years. We looked at his belongings and the musical heritage that he had left. We gazed at a contemporary mask  of Nelson’s face and felt very close to Papa Haydn as our eyes took in his original scores for the Nelson Mass, the Creation and the Seasons.  We put on headphones and listened to sections of the Nelson Mass, his string quartets, and extracts from his symphonies; in short we were once again entranced by this man and this little town and all that it contained and which, has over the years, has become so much part of our own lives.

Eisenstadt is small but it is, as the town’s signpost told us, the capital of the state of Burgenland – the least populous of Austria’s states. Although designated a city, Eisenstadt has only some 14000 inhabitants - only about twice the number of people who live in my own small village on the outskirts of Nottingham. It lies on the edge of the country close to the Hungarian border, indeed the Esterházy family were Hungarian nobles by descent. As we wandered down the pedestrianised main street with the Palace standing at one end we took in the lovely buildings and atmosphere of this delightful and gentle place. We enjoyed a very pleasant lunch sitting in the sun and later in the afternoon an ice cream as we watched the world go by. Half way down the main street stands the Rathaus – the town hall; can there be a more beautiful town hall in the whole of the world – I seriously doubt it. And just off the main street lies the church – newly renovated but exquisite with some of the most glorious stained glass we have ever seen.  Again, like everything else we had seen that day a real jewel, worth a visit in itself; we both agreed, Eisenstadt is worth another, longer visit in the near future.
Eisenstadt Rathaus - beats most other town halls I've seen!

And as we sat enjoying our ice cream, our musical pilgrimage was almost at an end. On the following  day we would fly back to Heathrow and I thought, as I had often done  that day, how strange it seems that this small and easily missable place should become such an important spot in the history of music and Europe. At the time of Haydn, Nelson, Mozart, the Empress  Maria Theresa, Napoleon, the Esterházy princes  and all the other grand, powerful and great figures from history, this small place was one of the centres of European – indeed world - politics, life, culture and power. It was a place  where in the Esterházy’s quiet drawing rooms and salons, over its dinner tables, in its bedrooms and in its wonderful concert hall not only the wonderful music of Haydn would have been enjoyed but great decisions taken, alliances made, and the European order decided by those “movers and shakers” of the 18th and 19th century world.
Down the delightful main street of Eisenstadt

And as I thought on this I reflected that in Haydn and Nelson’s day when travel was so much more difficult how amazing was it at how these people travelled the vast distances that they did without our modern means of transport and communication to get to places like Eisenstadt. I wonder what Nelson and Lady Hamilton and the rest of their entourage thought and felt after their long journey across Europe from Naples  as their carriages at rolled up to the gates of Palace. I marvelled at how it must all have been planned, the stops along the way, the unmade roads, the changes of the horses and all the other “stuff” that we today never have to think about.  I wondered, too, how Joseph Haydn made his journey to far off London where he became something of a superstar for a few years and then returned to this little place for the remaining years of his life. Tomorrow, I reflected, we would fly back to London in about two hours, for him it was  a journey of many weeks if not months  Today we complain if our bus is a minute or two late, or if we are stuck in a traffic jam for any period of time; Pat and I had travelled for an hour or so on our short journey from Vienna – in Haydn’s day that would have been a significant and probably uncomfortable journey of several hours – and yet in those far off days, Haydn and his peers could undertake these great trials and difficulties but then return home and write and perform such glorious music.

Today, the Princes and Princesses Esterházy are no more resident at the palace - the modern world has changed them and their lifestyle. The descendants of those  Esterházy aristocrats, like their patrons the Hapsburgs, now live in world capitals - New York, London, Paris, Berlin and the rest - but the historical,  cultural and political impact of  those far off years at their magnificent Eisenstadt home is still huge. They were people who shaped not only their own world but helped in no small way to make the world that we know and inhabit today.  When Nelson visited and  enjoyed  Esterházy hospitality and Haydn's music he was the toast of Europe having stopped Napoleon's advance. At that same time Mare Antoinette, daughter of the recently deceased Hapsburg Empress Marie Theresa, had been executed in the French Revolution from whence Napoleon's power grew - no wonder Europe was afraid and grateful to Nelson; revolution and  fear threatened to overcome the continent. Against this backdrop the  Esterházy court provided not only a cultural bolt hole for these powerful men and women but a  place where alliances could be forged, policies discussed and plans made. It helped in ensuring the stability of Europe both at the time and for future generations. The music of Joseph Haydn was integral to this - it provided an atmosphere which reminded these powerful people  who they were and what they were about.  Haydn, ever a man of his times, ever with his finger on the pulse not only wrote great music to entertain and to enjoy but great and inspiring  music for great events, to strengthen resolve and to celebrate the great, the good, and the hopes and fears of the age  - the "Nelson Mass", the "Missa in Angustiis" -  a "Mass for Times of Distress " - was such a work. This wonderful work, and others by Haydn, provided some form of higher framework, a kind of moral compass to inspire, reflect and celebrate great decisions and great actions and it is still doing that today - inspiring and opening the eyes of those who sing it, play it or listen to it to see something better and more worthy.

For a brief, and glittering, few years this little provincial town in Austria and this family of largely well meaning nobles together with this gentle and humble maestro provided a cultural oasis but in doing so they unknowingly gave huge amounts of pleasure and inspiration not only to their own age but to coming generations. And perhaps more importantly played a  pivotal role not only in shaping their world but in  making our world what it is today; I found that not only wonderful but awesome and humbling. We had, indeed, been treading in the footprints of giants.

28 August, 2017

Walking with Giants (2): "Music to make you believe in God"

Amongst my classical CD collection there are a number of works which are performed by different orchestras, conductors or soloists. For example, I have three versions of Bach’s Goldberg Variation – two played by the great Bach pianist Glenn Gould (one in 1955 and one in 1983) and one by Angela Hewitt, several versions of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony played by different orchestras under the direction of different conductors, and several versions of Handel’s Messiah. This duplication of discs is not an error, it is intentional – these (and others) are very great works all of which have been interpreted differently by different artist and at different times. One such work is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s mighty Requiem. I have four different copies of the Requiem, each one special and “right” in its own way but there is one that I instinctively turn to when I want to listen to the work rather than just have it as background music. I thought about this recently as we continued our musical “pilgrimage” along the Danube and stood in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna – one of the great cathedrals of the world.
St Stephen's Cathedral

From the outside St Stephen’s is magnificent – imposing, wonderful architecture, soaring spire, wonderfully and beautifully decorated roof – truly, a majestic and superlative building; a mighty place of worship  steeped in centuries of Christianity and history. It is a place that has witnessed a thousand years of  great events, royal weddings and funerals: the history of Austria and much of middle Europe is writ large in the fabric of this great building. Step inside and one is overwhelmed by an awareness of this great past but two weeks ago as I stood in the nave of this great place I felt something else; something more personal and searching, something to make one feel introspective, vulnerable and uncertain of one's place in the great scheme of things. Inside this magnificent church the glories of the outside structure become a vast brooding space, almost intimidating; soaring columns, a heavy sense not only of royal and political power and of history but also of godly power; it is a cloying atmosphere that seems to press down and remind one of the smallness of mankind in the mighty sweep of heaven and earth. This is a place to remind us mere mortals of the power of an omnipotent God; not a place, I thought, to sing modern “happy clappy” hymns, nor a place to reflect upon its architectural beauty, or upon the compassion of a benevolent God. It is a serious place, yes, a place of great majesty but at the same time a place to instil fear in the hearts of those who would stray from the path of righteousness. Standing there I got the feeling that it must be like this to stand condemned in the Old Bailey Courtroom and face the bewigged judge and the whole fearful panoply of the mighty legal profession as some terrible sentence is passed. It is a place to reflect upon and be forcefully reminded of one’s relationship with our maker and indeed, our ultimate judge.

And as I stood there, the music of Mozart’s mighty Requiem rang through my brain – it was the only music befitting of this place - and not just any version of the Requiem, but that made by Sir Georg Solti, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Choir. This is the version to which I turn when I want to listen to the Requiem and is one of the definitive recordings of the work.  Significantly, it was recorded in 1991 in St Stephen’s on the two hundredth anniversary of Mozart’s death. Solti’s rendering of the work is, like the Cathedral, imposing, intimidating, dramatic and seems to peer into the very soul of the listener exposing every fault line and mortal weakness of our inner selves. And as the Cathedral does, the Requiem forcibly reminds one of the smallness of mankind in the face of an omnipotent God - and, terrifyingly, of the eternity that awaits us all when the gossamer thread upon which we all hang finally snaps.
Inside the vast commanding space

But the Requiem  and St Stephen’s is more tangibly connected with Mozart. If you walk out of the Cathedral and take a few steps down the narrow street that runs along the side of the church then within a matter of seconds you will come to Mozart’s home – where he lived and composed for much of his life. Mozart was married to Constanze in the Cathedral and upon his death his funeral service took place there; powerful are the links between the Cathedral, the musician and his final great work, the Requiem.

Of all the stories about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart the tale of the Requiem  is without doubt the most mysterious and arresting – and for me explains Solti’s powerful rendering of this supreme work in the Cathedral. Separating the myth, the mystery and the facts of the Requiem’s story has fascinated Mozart fans and musicologists since the composer’s death in 1791 at the age of 36. Any study of Mozart and his life is filled with superlatives and quite unimaginable tales – the story of the Requiem was the final twist in the story of this wonderful composer’s life.

Mozart composed over 600 works in his short life, virtually all of them acknowledged as pinnacles of musical achievement and his influence upon Western music is both immeasurable and profound; Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn, upon hearing of Mozart’s death  wrote  "posterity will not see such a talent again"  But for me, perhaps Sir Georg Solti’s comment expresses best what music lovers think of Mozart and his music when he said: “Mozart makes you believe in God – it cannot be by chance that such a phenomena arrives in the world and then passes after thirty six years, leaving behind such an unbounded number of unparalleled masterpieces.”

In simple terms Mozart was a musical genius, he did things that no-one else could do and from the earliest age. Johann Sebastian Bach once said that he (Bach)  “...was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well. There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself. As a good Lutheran Bach knew all about the Christian work ethic but he was doing himself a disservice when he suggests that it took only hard work to produce such glorious music as his. Mozart, too, worked prodigiously hard  – indeed it might be argued that he died of hard work – but in the end Mozart’s creative talent and musical genius are without a doubt the deciding factors in the mighty works that he produced.
Mozart in his home town of Salzburg

Mozart showed prodigious ability from early childhood. He composed from the age of five and by the time he was eight he was touring European courts with his father, Leopold and elder sister (Maria Anna). Mozart himself was baptised in his home town, Salzburg the day after his birth. Only a few days prior to our visit to St Stephen’s Cathedral Pat and I had stood in Salzburg gazing up at the house where Mozart was born and then later that same day in the mid day heat we had taken photographs of the statue that is erected to this son of Salzburg in the main square of the town. That night we had sat in the glorious baroque Mirabelle Palace listening to the Amadeus Concert playing Mozart – truly an evening that will stay with us for the rest of our lives – mostly because of the music but also because we were listening to music that had been penned by this musical giant two centuries before in the place where he lived – it was a powerful connection.

The end of a wonderful Mozart evening in the glorious Mirabelle Palace
Mozart’s early baptism was with good cause - he was not expected to live – and he remained sickly for most of his life. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg. Here he had many artistic successes but he grew restless and travelled in search of a better position. He was anxious to compose opera and there was little opportunity for this in Salzburg. He visited Paris but was forced to return home and resume his Salzburg employment when his mother died and, while visiting Vienna in 1781, he was finally dismissed from his Salzburg post. He chose to stay in Vienna, where at last he found fame as his operas began to be recognised - but this gave him little long term financial security.

In 1782, in St Stephen’s, he married Constanze and they spent much of their remaining years in the house near the Cathedral. They had six children but only two survived infancy. Despite their popular success and the fact that he gained steady employment with the Emperor Joseph II, storm clouds were gathering. Mozart’s debts were rising and money was tight and he had a family to feed. He worked incessantly, frequently travelling to far off places to conduct an opera, meet a possible client or seek extra work and in a sense this paid off. These years were a time of great productivity: concertos that are pinnacles of the genre, symphonies that set the pattern for symphonic composition from that day to this, operas that still fill theatres and their sublime arias bring tears to the eyes of the audience, great church music that has become integral to the Christian tradition – the list was and is endless and it all poured, seemingly effortlessly, from the pen of this brilliant young man. Other great composers tend to achieve their fame because of their great talent in single or limited areas: Bach, for example is the king of choral/religious music, Beethoven the master of the symphony, Puccini and Verdi are famed for their opera - and so on. Mozart, however, achieves perfection and world recognition on virtually every musical front - he could slip (as he did in the final weeks of his life) from composing one of the world's greatest operas - The Magic Flute - and in a trice turn out the Requiem; his like had not been seen before and has not been seen since.

Mozart and Constanze married here

But Mozart's skill and brilliance was not effortless – the work load and his sickly constitution took their toll. On September 6th 1791 while in Prague he fell ill. Despite continuing composing and conducting the premier of The Magic Flute he quickly deteriorated. He returned to Vienna and on November 20th, whilst composing the Requiem, he became bed ridden suffering from swelling, pain and vomiting.

The circumstances surrounding the composition of Mozart’s Requiem are remarkable, fascinating and dramatic; it is, in short, the stuff of legends. Composed on his death bed, it is a work that many regard as the finest piece of music ever written – that is an arguable claim, but it cannot be disputed that the Requiem is without doubt one of the greatest of musical works. Even today, no matter how many times I have heard it, it still has the capacity to make the hairs on my neck stand out and my heart race when the opening bars are played. I know that I am not alone in that. It is also one of the greatest paradoxes of music that this work, one of (if not the) greatest of Mozart's works is the one of which he actually composed the smallest percentage!

The story of the Requiem began a few weeks before Mozart’s death when he was approached by a gentleman – some say masked - acting on behalf of an anonymous patron who wished to commission from him a Requiem Mass. This patron was Count Franz von Walsegg-Stuppach, whose wife had died earlier that year. The Count, who was a keen amateur musician, wished to be regarded as a major composer and saw an opportunity to pass off the Requiem as his own.  He therefore conducted all business transactions with Mozart in secrecy to preserve his anonymity and sent an agent to act on his behalf. The Count’s offer was substantial, and Mozart, ever financially troubled, accepted 250 florins (half of what he got for an opera). There were to be no rehearsals or conducting of performances involved – it was a secret work. A substantial deposit was paid but before he could begin work on the Requiem, Mozart had to complete several other commissions, including The Magic Flute, and also had to travel to Prague to produce a season of Figaro. So he entered the Autumn of 1791 with a heavy workload and declining health.

Mozart set to work on the Requiem in October 1791, but had completed only a fraction of the work before taking to his bed in mid-November. He was terminally ill. Legend has it, too, that the secrecy surrounding the work perhaps played on Mozart’s ailing mind – he began to fear that this was not just any Requiem, it was to be his own Requiem. At the time of his death, only the opening Aeternam  was fully finished. Of the Kyrie and the Offertory, he had completed only the vocal parts, a bass line and occasional fragments of instrumental sketches. The remaining movements—Sanctus, Benedictus, Osanna, Agnus Dei, and Lux Aeterna – were only lightly sketched out. We know that in the last few days of his life, as Mozart faced death one of his students, Franz Süssmayr, assisted the composer in scribing Mozart’s ideas – he was by now too ill to hold a pen. We also know that local Viennese singers were brought to Mozart’s bedside to sing parts that he had sketched out in order that he could hear them before finally putting the notes on the manuscript. He died aged 35 on December 5th 1791, survived by his wife and two sons – the Requiem only sketched out and partially complete.
Mozart's house - in the shadow of St Stephen's

Desperate for funds, Mozart's wife, Constanze, was anxious to have the work completed and took it upon herself to find someone to complete the Requiem so that she could sell it as Mozart's. Eventually Constanze approached Franz Süssmayr who had been the composer’s closest musical confidante.  He undoubtedly knew what Mozart’s intentions were in respect of the complete Requiem. He had not been Constanze’s first choice – that had been  Joseph von Eybler but Eybler was unable to make satisfactory progress. When she eventually turned to Süssmayr, it was because there was a deadline to meet in order that she received the final payment; and only Süssmayr with his greater knowledge could meet that deadline!

Whatever the reason, thanks to his efforts, the Requiem was completed by February 1792 and  the final score dispatched to Count Walsegg complete with a counterfeited signature of Mozart. Shortly afterwards Constanze was paid the full amount owed. The Count presented the music as his own at a memorial service to his wife in 1793 and a little over a year later it was played - attributed to Mozart - in Vienna, at a concert about which Walsegg knew nothing.  
One of the rooms in the house

Süssmayr's work has often been harshly criticized - the Requiem is full of errors in harmony, and his musical ideas were no match for Mozart's. However, despite its detractors, the Süssmayer completion of the Requiem has remained the standard version. Despite any shortfalls the Requiem scholars are united that it remains purely Mozartean and one of, if not the greatest setting of the Requiem text in history.

In the years following, the Requiem gained its place in musical history and folklore and began to develop  a life of its own. In 1809 it was performed at the memorial service for Joseph Haydn and, adding to the many myths about the piece, in 1833 Joseph von Eybler suffered a stroke while conducting the Requiem. He never conducted again. In December 1840 it was performed at the reburial of Napoleon and in 1849 at Chopin's funeral. And so it continued to establish itself as one of the very great Masses and choral works. In modern times the Requiem was performed in 1964 as the Memorial Mass for President Kennedy. In 1994 Zubin Mehta conducted Sarajevo Philharmonic in the ruins of Sarajevo to mark the end of the Siege of Sarajevo and the ending of the Bosnian/Serb conflict. In 1999 Claudio Abbado conducted the Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic in Salzburg on the 10th anniversary of the death of Herbert von Karajan and, in churches and concert halls throughout Austria (and many other places), it is common for the Requiem to be performed each December to commemorate Mozart’s untimely death on December 5th.
Some of the original score of the Requiem. The bottom five staves are in the hand of Mozart himself. The top half is the work of Süssmayr. When the whole Requiem was finished Süssmayr made a copy all in his own hand, imitating Mozart's so that it would look a unified piece of work. Mozart's signature was the forged by Constanze. The rest is history so to speak!

Whatever its history, whatever its strange convoluted tale and mythology, whatever the involvement of Süssmayr, it cannot be denied that the work stands at the very epicentre of western music. It is filled with exquisite and achingly beautiful sections but at the same time its raw power, majesty, drama  and mystery can make both performer and listener sit back in awe and wonder. It is not only much loved and popular but is one of the world’s defining musical works and one which has not only has stood the test of time but becomes more loved, more wondered at and more performed as each year passes.

As I stood in the tourist crowds in St Stephen’s Cathedral the mighty music of the Requiem rang in my brain and a few minutes later, when Pat and I spent a wonderful hour in Mozart’s house in the shadow of St Stephen’s, we listened through headphones to it’s great and powerful message.  And as we walked through the rooms looking at the artefacts of his life in the place where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, had given the world some of its very greatest music, other works by this young but blighted genius flooded through the building: the magically haunting Queen of the Night’s Aria from The Magic Flute, the achingly beautiful Dove Sono  from The Marriage of Figaro,  Soave sia il Vento from Cosi fan Tutti and many others. We stopped at one stage – mesmerised by the wonders of modern technology. In front of us were an array of small screens, each showing an extract from one of the great Mozart operas. At first we were a little confused but then realised that each screen related to one of the world’s great opera houses: La Scala, Covent Garden, La Fenici, the Vienna Staatoper, the New York Met, the Bolshoi.....and others – and through the sound system came the singing, synched to the screens. So one could see different productions of the same opera, the same aria as performed at each of these great musical palaces all at the same time. Press the button and immediately a different opera and aria came up on all of the screens! What would Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart have thought of that? – in the end his quest for fame has succeeded. This creative musical genius would, I am sure, have loved it. As I watched the flickering screens - Mozart's great music coming from every part of the world I wondered what he would have thought of it and of my CD of Solti conducting the Requiem; a little silver disc that I can slip in my pocket (or even now put on a tiny memory stick) enabling me if I wish to carry around with me so much of his great music. As I sit writing this blog at the side of me Mozart is playing – my complete Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Haydn,..............and many, many more great classical works – several days non-stop of the greatest music to pour from the minds of the greatest composers - all stored on a memory chip smaller than the nail on my finger. Yes, Mozart would, I think, have been in awe to think that his scribblings, his genius and his hard work over those few short years have become such a worldwide phenomena. Fame indeed - at last.
A contemporary likeness (so we are told) - and a sight one sees 
replicated throughout Salzburg & Vienna.

And yet, the ultimate irony is that when this supreme musician died his body was, as was the custom of the time in Vienna for those not of aristocratic pedigree, not buried in some magnificent tomb with due honour and recognition but simply put in an unmarked common grave. Like his Requiem and like that mighty St Stephen's Cathedral Mozart’s end forcibly reminds us of the smallness, the insignificance and the transience of mankind in the great scheme of things - and of the eternity that awaits us all when the gossamer thread upon which we all hang finally snaps
As we stood in St Stephen's brooding and awe inspiring vastness and the mighty and haunting music of the Requiem filled my mind I knew that we were almost touching the past as we trod in the footsteps of musical giants.

19 August, 2017

Walking with musical giants (1): A son of Salzburg.

The statue of von Karajan
By the side of the Salzach River that runs through the ancient town of Salzburg in Austria there stands a rather grand and well appointed – although not overly extravagant – house. It is adjacent to one of the town’s bridges which cross the Salzach, a tributary of one of the great rivers of the world, the Danube. The footbridge sparkles in the mid day sun, its glitter not the result of some ancient gilding – although gold leaf or silver would not look amiss in such a wealthy and splendid town as Saltzburg – but rather something far more modern and prosaic, namely metal locks – thousands of them. Like many towns across the world the modern penchant for lovers to fix metal locks to the railings of bridges has come to Saltzburg; lovers swear their everlasting love while fixing the lock to the bridge and then throw the key into the river and thus, hopefully, ensure their relationship for all time. 
The maestro in typical pose
We had come to Salzburg at the start of our trip to the area. Our itinerary to take a cruise down the Danube visiting new places – amongst them Salzburg, Bratislava and Vienna – and at the same time to undertake a kind of musical odyssey to seek out the musical heritage of this part of the world – especially the world of Mozart and Haydn, two of our favourite composers. Middle Europe – and especially Austria - has a rich musical pedigree; in by-gone   years a myriad of small kingdoms, dukedoms, and principalities formed the political, economic and social structure of the region. Consequently, each duke, prince or king had his own court musicians to provide entertainment, liturgical music, military pomp and, not unimportantly, to impress one’s fellow royal houses. The result was that a wealth of opportunities arose for musicians and composers to ply their trade and it is from this area of Germany and middle Europe that many of the world’s greatest composers and musical minds made their names: Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Handel, and where many of the world’s greatest musical venues are situated: the Vienna Opera House, the Esterhazy Palace, the Schönbrunn Palace, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Prague Opera House and many, many more. Once this musical base was established in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries others built upon it: Beethoven, Strauss, Mendelssohn, Smetana, Wagner and the rest – middle Europe can rightly claim to be regarded as the cradle of the western classical music tradition. 
Von Karajan's birthplace in Salzburg
But back to the house, whose many windows look out onto the glittering bridge. The house is  quietly imposing – perhaps, one might think, the home of some well to do merchant or city grandee. There is no sign or obvious clue as to its ownership or heritage until one stops and looks through the perimeter railings –  then all becomes clear – or at least to me it did a couple of weeks ago as Pat and I began our wonderful holiday in the fine city of Salzburg. As I stood in the burning morning heat – temperatures already in the upper twenties and threatening to rise higher by mid day I saw in front of me, within the perimeter railings a statue - an instantly recognisable figure in instantly recognisable pose. I did not need to read the inscription at the base of the statue – this, I knew, was one of the world’s great musicians, one of the greatest conductors to grace the world’s greatest concert halls, the conductor who for half a life time led and was synonymous with what was (and maybe still is) the world’s greatest orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic. This was Herbert von Karajan, arguably the greatest conductor of the 20th century – a man and a musician whose musical skills, conducting, lifestyle and indeed reputation made him one of the very great superstars of the musical world and indeed the modern world – and this was von Karajan’s family home, where he was born. Today the building houses the Von Karajan Institute where the great conductor’s musical legacy is preserved and where his archives are maintained for the use of musical scholars.

Von Karajan’s statue stands looking towards the river and to Salzburg, and as I peered through the railings whilst trying to get the perfect holiday photograph I was reminded of how petite he was – a fact that does not seem to “fit” with what the popular view of him is, for in musical terms and by reputation he was a giant - both as a musician and amongst his peers, who were the cream of the world's greatest musicians. He was, so the von Karajan myth would have us believe, autocratic - perhaps even aristocratic; dominating, some say dictatorial, a commanding presence, perhaps arrogant, petulant, brooding, totally professional and severely demanding of the world class musicians with whom he worked.

It might be wrong to say that he was feared but without doubt those who played under his baton knew that their conductor would accept nothing but the best – and the best was exactly whatever he decided it would be! Von Karajan brooked no criticism or opinion different from  his own! No shrinking violet was he! - there was only one maestro, the supreme von Karajan, and he expected people to know it and accept it! To von Karajan it was simply the natural order of things - and although his musical peers and fans were aware of his egotistical and petulant style, they totally respected, admired and looked up to him for in the end, they knew, he brought something to his music, his orchestra and his audiences that no other conductor of the time could even begin to do. He was simply "the maestro".
Two musical giants: von Karajan and the great cellist Rostropovich
Born in 1908 the charismatic von Karajan was by far the dominant conductor and musically commanding figure of the mid and late 20th century musical world until his death in 1989 - and this in an age of some of the greatest musicians ever: Callas, Rostropovich, Tortelier, Menuhin and many, many more. He was – and still is – the top selling classical music recording artist of all time having sold in excess of 200 million records; he could command fees that would make the most highly paid pop star's eyes water with envy. Judged to be a musical child prodigy at the age of 8 in 1916 he entered the world renowned Mozartarium in Salzburg to further his piano studies at that tender age.  He was an instant success, his teachers united in their praise and admiration for the youngster's talents. Whilst at the Mozartarium he was attracted to conducting and by the time he was 30 years old he had already made his conducting debut, not with a little known orchestra upon which he could "cut his musical and conducting teeth", but first with the world famous Vienna Philharmonic and then with the majestic and incomparable Berlin Philharmonic. His debut performances were hailed by both audiences and  Berlin critics who referred to the young von Karajan as Das Wunder Karajan (the Karajan miracle). One critic asserted that Karajan's "success with Wagner's demanding work "Tristan und Isolde" sets himself alongside Wilhelm Furtwangler - we are in a new age of a  new and true maestro” ; Furtwangler was at that time regarded as by far the greatest opera conductor in the world.
Von Karajan with his third wife Eliette, a
French model - they  married in 1958  and
stayed together until his death in 1989

As a result von Karajan's fame spread through the musical establishment like wild fire and he quickly received a contract with Deutsche Grammophon - a relationship which lasted virtually throughout his life – and which was mutually beneficial. It made von Karajan a multi-millionaire and at the same time put Deutsche Grammophon on the world map and the company at the peak of classical music recording industry. It has been said that in post war Germany when the country was struggling to get back on its economic feet Deutsche Grammophon's success based upon von Karajan's recordings was a critical factor in boosting the country's economic turn around.
A much loved recording: von Karajan,
Deutsche Grammophon and Karajan's great child prodigy
and, later, muse the then thirteen year old Anne-Sophie Mutter -
now a superstar in her own right

The rest, as they say, is history – von Karajan took by storm the classical music world of the mid 20th century and in addition to his musical achievements made news as a jet setting superstar. He flew his own private jet to take up concert commitments,  was often photographed sitting in a stylish sports car such as a Porche and wherever he went there seemed to be a chic, beautiful and often easily recognisable young woman on his arm. Von Karajan moved in the top circles of high European and international society, his photograph appearing regularly in glossy fashion magazines and high end journals.  No great concert hall was complete until the maestro had conducted there: La Scala, the New York Met, Bayreuth, Covent Garden; no great opera diva could consider herself at the apex of her career until she had sung under the maestro's baton.
With Maria Callas

A popular quip in those days was that when von Karajan  took a taxi and the taxi driver asked where the maestro wished to be taken von Karajan's reply was always "It doesn't matter - they want me everywhere!"  A quip, maybe, but in essence the truth. There were downsides. His membership of the Nazi Party in his youth was a feature that dogged him throughout his life but that apart his towering intellect, work ethic, musical talents, charisma, desire for musical perfection and the ability to make front page news ensured that he was unchallenged as the world’s greatest conductor and the Berlin Philharmonic indisputably the world's finest orchestra.
In 1950s jet setting style, at the  wheel of his Porche

Von Karajan’s reputation as a hard task master and as a man who did not suffer fools gladly ensured a wealth of stories – many of them apocryphal – but all adding to the myth that was and still is Herbert von Karajan.  One of my favourites is one told by the world famous flautist James Galway who was principle flute player at the Berlin Philharmonic under von Karajan. Galway told of a night when the orchestra were playing a concert and half way through there was an electricity failure and the hall was plunged into total darkness. “The orchestra” said Galway "never missed a beat despite gasps from the audience”. They carried on throughout the long piece, stopping, as usual, at the end of each movement and beginning the next in perfect time despite not being able to see their conductor's baton - the hall still being in complete darkness. Every member of the orchestra knew the work by heart so they just carried on although they could not see a thing. “Suddenly” said Galway “as the final few moments of the piece came the lights came back on and, to a man and woman, every orchestra member was on the same correct page of the score. In the dark they had all been turning the pages of the scores over even though they could not see them – and von Karajan was still conducting exactly in time and place with his orchestra!” Such was the discipline instilled and expected by von Karajan; no-one argued with him! In modern day terms one might suggest that when von Karajan said "jump" the answer was not "why" but "how high!"
Von Karajan Platz outside the great Opera House in Vienna

Other stories have poked a little gentle fun at the maestro. I like particularly the joke that tells of a musician who dies and finds himself sitting in an orchestra composed of all the greatest performers who have ever lived. Looking at the cello section he recognizes Casals, Rostropovich and Tortelier. And then at the violinists where he doesn't initially recognize the first violinist so he asks his seatmate.  "Oh, that’s Paganini” says his companion “and next to him Yehudi Menuhin and then David Oistrakh ". And so it goes on – wherever he looks he sees the greatest musicians the world has ever known sitting around him.  The man then notices there is a piano and sitting at the piano waiting to play is Glenn Gould whilst in the wings waiting their turn he can see the unmistakable figures of Maria Callas, Beniamino Gigli, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Enrico Caruso, Kathleen Ferrier and Luciano Pavarotti - the world's greatest operatic names. He's flabbergasted--there's never been a greater orchestra or assemblage of musical talent and, it seems, he's playing in it! Suddenly the truth dawns upon him - he has died and gone to HEAVEN! Just as he realises this  the door opens and the conductor, baton in hand, enters and strides purposefully up to the podium; his chiselled visage stern with command, his silver hair gleaming as shafts of heavenly light stream down upon him from the beautiful stained glass windows . The great orchestra, and above them the angels, and the cherubim and seraphim floating over the assembled musicians, fall silent in expectation and reverence.  The conductor mounts the podium, looks around and then lifts his baton dramatically in readiness for the downbeat, his eyes piercing into the very souls of each and everyone of his players........and the musician, who cannot now contain himself any longer, turns to his seatmate and, stumbling to get the words out, whispers "Is that... is that...is that....... "  His seatmate puts his finger to his lips and whispers "Shhh...... No, my friend, it's not the maestro von Karajan, it's only God........it’s a very sad case. God just THINKS he's von Karajan. It is all he desires - he dresses up to look like him and the angels cut his hair in the same style as the maestro. It's all God ever dreams of, he practises day and night to be like the maestro. All God wants is to be as famous, as all powerful and as loved as the maestro!" 

And so over the glittering bridge to Salzburg and Mozart

So, looking back at that small, easily missed statue of this very great musician, we turned and set off across the bridge, the sun beating down upon us, as we passed a million metal locks shimmering in the August brightness. As we crossed the bridge I wondered what the sophisticated and petulant von Karajan might have thought of the cheap locks outside his front door and fastened to the bridge in this most classical and urbane of cities? From what I know of this brilliant but autocratic man I don't think he would have been impressed by the triviality of it all. But then again, I reflected, the maestro had spent his whole life conducting the music of the great operas and bringing to his adoring audiences the inevitable operatic tales of the gods and of great love stories and lost love so maybe he would have understood lovers' trysts without perhaps approving! How could you bring the great love arias such as those from Madame Butterfly, Turandot, Carmen, Norma, The Pearl Fishers,  La Traviata and a thousand others and at the same time bring tears to the eyes of millions of von Karajan's fans without having some romantic streak in you? Surely, I reasoned as we walked across that bridge, von Karajan would have understood - indeed, maybe he would have found a suitable piece of music to accompany the lovers as they made their promises and turned the key in the lock before casting it into the current!  With this thought in mind we continued on our way across the bridge, in front of us Salzburg – home not only to the great Herbert von Karajan but to another Austrian musical giant, perhaps even greater than von Karajan and a reason for our being there at all, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – a composer of whom it was once famously said “It is his music that is listened to by the angels in heaven as they go about their daily duties”. Our musical odyssey  had begun.