From the masterpieces of Bach and thrilling operas of Mozart to Beethoven's groundbreaking creations and Strauss’ ‘Blue Danube’, Germany and Austria have produced some of classical music's most revered composers and works. Five cities in particular can lay a special claim to this legacy of musical genius – here's how to experience it while immersing yourself in the destinations' many other charms.
Surrounded by Austria's soaring Eastern Alps, Salzburg is renowned as a hiking base. For the culturally inclined, there are two other big draws: the city's status as the birthplace of Mozart, and the manicured gardens and beautiful palaces that provided the sets for The Sound of Music. If it's Mozart's legacy that brings you to Salzburg, securing tickets to the yearly Salzburger Festspiele will ensure a priceless experience. Lovers of the film come to see the 17th-century Mirabell Palace and Gardens and famous Marble Hall, the Nonnberg Abbey, the Summer Riding School and the Frohnburg Palace.
The Sheraton Grand Salzburg has a superb location at the gates of the Mirabell Gardens. Not only are the gardens beautiful, but they also offer easy and elegant access to concerts in the palace's marble hall. Whether the Großes Festspielhaus or the Stiftung Mozarteum - Großer Saal, the city's music venues and Mozart’s birthplace are all within walking distance of this exceptional property.
Illustrious Vienna, Austria, is famous for its palaces and superb art museum, as well as the venerable institutions that dot the wide boulevards of its iconic Ringstrasse. At the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera, composers of the past, including Richard Strauss, created a great musical legacy.
Strauss may well have trodden the passageway that leads from the Wiener Musikverein concert hall through to the magnificent Hotel Imperial. Located in the very heart of Vienna, the hotel was originally built as a palace before being converted into accommodation for the 1873 Vienna’s World Fair.
Several famous pillars of the opera world, including conductor Herbert von Karajan, have stayed at the Hotel Bristol Vienna opposite the opera house. For over 130 years, this property’s cosmopolitan flair has attracted everyone from monarchs to business magnates.
The symbiotic relationship between the city's hotels and its musical heritage is given glorious expression in the Symphony Suite at the elegant Ritz Carlton, Vienna. Like the sweep of a symphony's minuet and sonata movements, these suites evoke musical perfection with 99 square metres of opulent space.
Wherever you stay, try to see a performance of the world-famous Lipizzaner Horses. This stunning 'Ballet of the White Stallions' takes place in the baroque Winter Riding School at Hofburg Palace. Be sure, too, to sample the city's renowned coffee culture, with a slice of indulgent imperial chocolate torte.
With its strong maritime history, Hamburg has long displayed the creative, open-minded personality that marks out seaports around the world. It built the very first public opera house in Germany, for instance – the Oper am Gänsemarkt opened in 1678 and premiered German language productions. Händel’s first opera Almira was performed here in 1705.
For fans of the prodigious composer Brahms, there is a museum dedicated to his life and work. As a youngster, Brahms played piano in the city’s theatre district to help out with the family finances. In the early 1960s, the Beatles also played along the Reeperbahn to get their foot in the door of the pop music world. Tourists can still visit the Kaiserkeller where the band played many gigs.
With its three concert halls and remarkable architecture, the Elbphilharmonie on the River Elbe has injected new cultural life into Hamburg. Occupying 21 floors of this spectacular modernist building, The Westin Hamburg offers floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic views of the harbour. The property is known for its spa and wellness therapy, so guests can enjoy a treatment, a concert and a relaxing stay, all in the same iconic building.
There is no place like Leipzig for music festivals. This city celebrates the great artists that lived and worked here with a rich diversity of performances taking place in the Gewandhaus (Concert Hall) and at the Leipzig Opera. This stately modern opera house opened in 1960 and important works by famous composers have premiered here, including those of Robert Schumann and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Leipzig’s most famous son is Johann Sebastian Bach and an annual festival celebrates his contrapuntal masterpieces. There is also a Bach Museum, with interactive displays and original manuscripts.
Another important composer from Leipzig is Richard Wagner, born here in 1813. The International Richard Wagner Festival in 2022 was received with great acclaim. Keep an eye out for news of future instalments. May 18, 2023, meanwhile, was the 110th anniversary of the composer Gustav Mahler’s death, which the Gewandhausorchester marked by hosting the Mahler festival, which is set to become a regular albeit infrequent event.
Many of these hubs of the city's musical legacy lie an easy stroll from the smart, centrally placed Leipzig Marriott Hotel.
Located on the Ruhr River, Essen is known for its beautiful Grugapark Botanical Garden and quaint old town. The city's cultural scene has moved from strength to strength since its stint as Capital of Culture in 2010. Begin your visit at the Villa Hügel, home to the industrialist Krupp family from 1873 to 1945. It is now a centre for exceptional chamber music and art exhibitions, with the Alfred Krupp Foundation supporting the creative life of Essen.
Opened in 2004, the Philharmonie Essen is a concert hall that graces the heart of the expansive city gardens. One of the best venues in Europe, it offers top-class programming, world-renowned artists, excellent acoustics and state-of-the-art technology.
Centrally located in the beautiful surroundings of the city gardens and adjacent to the Philharmonic Hall is the Sheraton Essen Hotel. There is direct access from the lobby to the Philharmonic, while the Aalto Opera is a near neighbour. The hotel’s Summer Terrace restaurant and bar enjoys exceptional views across the city park.
Published: August 30, 2023
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