More snow has fallen overnight but the efficient Austrians have tidied it away and helpfully spread grit for a safe foothold. The cold is nipping my ears and the sky looks as though it isn’t convinced it is finished with snow. I’m wandering through the frankly quaint streets of the old town. Yes, it really does look like a postcard. A carriage drawn by two horses rounds the corner and I’m struck by how easily one could be back in Mozart’s time. A carillion of bells chimes out what I recognise as Papageno’s aria from The Magic Flute. Next week, BFO will be accompanying the movie “Amadeus.” Being in Mozart’s home town takes on extra significance. No coincidence then that I find myself enjoying coffee and strudel in Café Mozart. When in Rome….
It is housed in a building from the sixteenth century, with plush red upholstery and deep-silled windows. A group of nattily-dressed Austrian gents have gathered for their regular coffee hour. Other guests read newspapers on wooden frames, old style. Tradition remains deeply ingrained here.
Mozart, I note, had a distinctive nose … judging by the profile on the wall. That such a wealth of utterly sublime music bubbled out of this man is always remarkable to me. The poor soul has been martyred on the altar of tourism for sure – and yet, with just a little imagination, one can fancy he could appear around any corner. Visiting the house in which he was born, I try to feel that atmosphere, despite some overly-loud tourists seemingly impervious to the shadows of greatness imprinted within the template of this modest building. The ceilings are low, floors wooden and creaky. I’m moved by Mozart’s correspondence with his wife and the deep bond between them. They reveal a refreshingly human, earthy and delightfully humourous spirit. Nothing saintly about him, but a real, flawed man. Through which music flowed and blossomed. Nothing mystical or divine about it – simply a true genius, anchored within a man who embraced play on words and retained a curious naivete about much of daily life outside music. It is humbling to be here. Family portraits line the walls. I’m thinking Mozart took more after his mother in looks…. But you never know how honest portrait painters were. There is a note from father Leopold, bemoaning the fact that he himself has been made to look fatter than he actually is, especially considering the necessary position of the violin making his neck look thicker. The politics of portraiture throughout history tended toward the ” bigger equals powerful” theory – size zero would definitely signify weak and ineffectual – so possibly Leopold ought to have felt gratified by the artist’s efforts.
Re-entering the streets below, I feel the need for rest and relaxation back at the hotel – by no means assured when my closest neighbours opt for a practise session. It’s a delicate balance for a touring orchestra – when and how to balance rest and practise without driving everyone else mad. The day ends with a delightful Austrian meal in the company of colleagues, every mouthful worth savouring. I opt for the Salzburger Nockerl dessert, which arrives looking not unlike a triple-humped camel. Mercifully it is airy and melts in the mouth. The waiters have a keen sense of humour and banter happily as we switch between Norwegian, English and German. After a little more wine, we find we have settled on a happy blend of all three. A bracing walk back across the river deposits us back in the hotel at an unusually respectable hour. Rehearsal awaits us at ten in the morning. Concert day!