Culture

Six of the best: Europe’s best classical music cities

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

One of the most prolific and beloved of the Classical era composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756 and the whole, exquisite UNESCO World Heritage Alstadt feels like a living monument to him, with restaurants, buskers, souvenir stands and even chocolates bearing his likeness. The Mozart Foundation runs a program of concerts and talks, including the Mozart Week festival and the Mozart Residence, a museum to his life and work. There, you can draw near to his original pianoforte. It’s surprisingly moving, as is Mozart’s Birthplace, a museum that includes the room in which this prodigious talent was born. See mozarteum.at

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

Antonin Dvorak’s work reflects the spirit of his homeland: Bohemia under the Austrian Empire, the Czech Republic today. While Prague has a proud and varied classical music history, it celebrates Dvorak, regarded as the greatest of the Czech composers, because he was born just outside the city. The museum dedicated to Dvorak is housed in Villa Amerika, a 1720 confection that is worth a look for its Baroque and Rococo decoration. It houses a permanent collection dedicated to Dvorak’s life and hosts regular performances of his work. The Prague Spring International Music Festival, a multi-genre event that takes over the city’s many beautiful venues, features a Dvorak component. See prague.eu

WARSAW, POLAND

Even Warsaw’s airport is named after Frederic Chopin. Though the romantic piano prodigy left Poland in 1830 for Paris at age 21 never to return, he left his mark on the Polish capital and the capital on him. The high-tech Chopin Museum is housed in the Baroque Ostrogski Palace, while on Sundays in summer, there are free Chopin recitals on the lawn at the feet of the beautiful, dynamic bronze statue of the composer in Royal Baths Park. Head to the Holy Cross church, where he played the organ and the Belvedere, a small palace where he was often invited to play recitals as a child. You can’t go in, but it photographs beautifully. See chopin.museum/pl

 

A statue of Johann Sebastian Bach Statue in front of St Thomas's Church, Leipzig, Germany.A statue of Johann Sebastian Bach Statue in front of St Thomas’s Church, Leipzig, Germany.  Photo: iStock

BUSSETO, ITALY

This charming town in the northern Italian province of Emilia-Romagna is synonymous with one of the world’s greatest opera composers and an Italian national hero. The official National Giuseppe Verdi Museum is here, in Villa Palavicino, one of the grandest ducal properties in the region. Villa Verdi, still in the family, is where the international superstar lived, first out of wedlock, then in, with soprano Giuseppina Strepponi. In the town’s main piazza, there’s a statue of Verdi, while in nearby Le Roncole, you can visit the house in which he was born. In Parma, 40 kilometres away from Busseto, lies Teatro Regio, a classic Italian opera hall that dishes up plenty of Verdi. Book well ahead. See emiliaromagnaturismo.com

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

With the Austrian Empire priding itself on playing patron to musicians, many composers passed through Vienna in the Classical period (1750-1820). Arguably the greatest of them, Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany, but spent much of his composing life in the Austrian capital. He was a grumpy, terrible tenant and so had 67 different residences in Vienna and surrounds. The Beethoven Museum in Baden (an hour outside the city) is one of the few you can visit. Another is Beethoven Pasqualatihaus, where he worked on his 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th symphonies, and today is a museum with a collection that includes his death mask. His grave is in Vienna’s Central Cemetery and a moving visit. See wien.info

LEIPZIG, GERMANY

Germany’s young, hip city is also steeped in classical music tradition. Giants Bach, Mendelssohn and Wagner all have connections to Leipzig. The Bach Museum is one of the best of its kind. Presenting the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach in an interactive exhibition, it also has activities and workshops for kids. But fans shouldn’t miss St Thomas Church, where Bach was choirmaster for his last 27 years. At the entrance, there’s a Bach monument commissioned by Mendelssohn and by the altar is Bach’s grave. The Leipzig Bach Festival is on each year in June. See leipzig.travel

Robin Cole