Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Eisenstadt and the dead composers club

Eisenstadt, Austria is a sweet little village outside of Vienna. A suburb, you could say. We stopped there on our way from Budapest to Vienna. Our main reason for the visit, Esterhazy Palace...home and workplace of Franz Joseph Haydn.

For over 40 years Haydn worked as court composer to four different Esterhazy princes. And though not royal himself, he held such power there that he was able to see significant requests carried out. One of which...he insisted that the red marble flooring was absolutely terrible for acoustics in the room that has since come to be called Haydn Hall. Wood flooring was installed under his direction. It is now one of the top five concert halls in the world when it comes to acoustics. I'd say in beauty too...it is rather stunning.

We were allowed to briefly sing the "Kyrie" movement of Haydn's Missa Brevis while we were in Haydn Hall. Pretty cool, actually.

We then took a tour of the rest of the palace....or well, the few rooms they had available for visitor tours. The palace has not been a place of residence since WWII but it is still privately owned.

 After the palace tour, we scattered into the surrounding little shops and cafes for a quick lunch...

 ...and then a short walk to the small house Haydn lived in while employed by the Esterhazy family.

We all look fairly gloomy and straight-faced in this picture but really I'm going to call it focused concentration...because I swear, learning about Haydn and touring his house was fascinating!
 Notice the reversed white and black keys on Hadyn's piano?

Taking a bit of a sit-down breather after all that touring before moving on to the Haydn Church/Mausoleum....

What does it say about me that when I walked up to this church my first thought was, "Weeping Angels....don't blink!" My Doctor Who geekiness comes out in the strangest of places, including it seems, Haydn Church in Eisenstadt, Austria.

Another request by Haydn...when the fourth of the Esterhazy princes that Haydn composed for (the most religious of the bunch) insisted on one Mass per year composed and performed in the nearby cathedral...Haydn refused on the grounds that the organ was nowhere near grand enough to do a Mass justice. It wasn't until a new organ was built and paid for that Haydn agreed to what was requested of him by his royal employer.

Haydn is one of very few composers who was buried where he worked. Originally he had been buried in Vienna, but the Esterhazys felt that Haydn should be laid to rest in the place he spent so much of his life and composed so many of his musical masterpieces. However there was a bit of a scandal when it came to Haydn's skull. When his remains were exhumed in preparation for the move from Vienna to Eisenstadt, they found his head missing! Apparently a group of doctors and intellectuals had stolen his head so as to study it and perhaps discover the link to his musical genius. As you can imagine, the Esterhazys in Eisenstadt were upset and demanded the return of Haydn's head. A skull was produced and then re-buried with the rest of Haydn's body. It was only on the death of these head thieving scoundrels along with an announcement from a museum in Vienna that they had a new acquisition in the form of Haydn's head, did the powers-that-be in Eisenstadt realize that the skull they had interned with the rest of Haydn's remains was indeed a fake. It took many, many more years of delays and red tape and wasn't until 1954 that head was reunited with body. Haydn was finally able to rest in peace in Haydn Church...145 years after he died.

The church itself, along with being the place where Haydn debuted many of his works and is now buried, is also a pilgrimage church with twenty Stations of the Cross. We followed them all, beautifully carved and painted scenes depicting the last week of Christ's life. The final stations required a climb up some stone steps on the outside of the church leading to the roof. It was an amazing view. And incredible symbolism.

After our visit to Eisenstadt, we again boarded our bus and headed towards Vienna.
(Mom was my bus buddy on the drive from Budapest to Eisenstadt and Vienna.)

We made a stop at the Vienna Cemetery. I think because we were a musical group here on a singing tour and had clearly been so jazzed to spend time with Joseph Haydn, Nicole (our tour guide) decided that we would appreciate an opportunity to pay our respects to other musical greats. We didn't have much time to wander the cemetery which was a shame, really. It was a fascinating and beautiful place.

 And yes, we were indeed suitably excited to see the final resting place of these geniuses...

Franz Shubert and Johann Strauss

Also Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart if you remember, was buried as a commoner in a paupers grave in another cemetery in Vienna. His gravesite has since been decorated to reflect the fame and genius of the man buried there, but here amongst the other composers, there is a monument to honor Mozart, even if his remains are still elsewhere. A musical composers club of sorts, I guess you could say.

Up next....more Vienna.
See Budapest here.

1 comment:

Shauna said...

Weeping angels...I totally laughed out loud. You rock! But seriously, the musician in me is having some pangs of jealousy just now. ;-)