When I was in sixth grade I decided that I wanted to play the flute. My mom had played it when she was in high school, and I had some friends who I knew played instruments. My music classes from Kindergarten through eighth grade consisted of nothing but singing, and not very good singing at that. I wasn’t even introduced to the recorder like so many other grade schoolers, though we did have a few in my house that we had purchased at bookstores packaged with Disney songbooks.
My mother’s flute and I, we didn’t get very far together. I really enjoyed playing, and both my mother and my teacher said I had a “great sound”, but trying to read music was like learning another language and I had a lot of trouble with it. My lessons officially ended when my flute teacher was in a car accident and needed to take time off for physical therapy. I meant to find another teacher, but it never happened. My two years of lessons weren’t a loss though- we rented a flute for a while and my mom and I played some really fun Christmas duets. I never get tired of listening to my mom play and I really wish she did it more often.
Most importantly though, what it gave me was a respect for classical music. As a child I had always counted classical as my least favorite genre, declaring anything without words to be “boring and annoying”. I still wouldn’t call it a favorite but I certainly have learned to appreciate it more. Now I pay extra attention to the music used in movies and often form an opinion about the score in addition to the soundtrack. I was also interested enough to want to explore that aspect of Salzburg, Austria when I traipsed through on a budget backpacking tour during my time abroad.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Budget backpacker tours for adventurous 18-35s include fun hostels, quirky bars, wet and wild river swims, and a whole lot of schnapps, but very little Mozart. During the unscheduled three hours we were given to wander Salzburg on our own, two tourmates and I headed straight for Mozart’s birthplace museum only to find it closed- as it was late May, the extended summer hours hadn’t begun yet. We ended up hiking to the fortress, getting hopeless lost on our way back down, and arriving at the hostel just in time to catch the bus to our schnapps farm dinner. I promised myself that if I ever returned to Salzburg I would make it a priority to hear some classical music, and when Chris and I visited over four years later I finally got that chance.
It was rainy and miserable when our bus pulled into Salzburg, but we had a big evening planned. We allowed ourselves hardly ten minutes to settle into our hotel room before donning our rain gear and boarding the funicular up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. We spent the little bit of time we had when the rain was at its lightest to explore before heading to the Festung Hohensalzburg restaurant, where we were able to partake in a dinner that was included with our Best of Mozart concert tickets. This dinner was surprisingly delicious! A creamy tomato soup started the meal and was followed by a choice of entrée. I chose the vegetarian option, a vegetable strudel, which was fantastic. Dessert was a small plate of assorted delicacies adorned with a powdered sugar treble clef. Adorable. The only extra money we paid was for alcoholic drinks (a fabulous peach aperitif) and gratuity. The restaurant itself was beautiful, and even with the rain coming down and the gray sky hovering we enjoyed the panoramic view of the town out the windows.
The concert that followed dinner was in the most beautiful room of all. Golden studs scattered the velvety blue ceiling like stars in a night sky. The huge windows that lined the walls behind and beside the performers allowed for a lovely view of the town before the sun set, and after the intermission they were opened wide, letting a lovely summer breeze and the slightest mist of rain trickle through. Tall twisted columns framed the small raised stage where the musicians were sitting. It was truly a stunning space, even before there was any music moving through it.
The program for the evening included about 50% Mozart and 50% other assorted composers, and I am proud to say that I recognized a whopping two pieces! But all of it was absolutely beautiful. A piano joined the string quartet for a few songs. From our seats we had a perfect view of one of the violinists, who looked so joyful and entertaining as he played. I will admit that by the end I was beginning to feel sleepy, but that is really a compliment. The music was just so soft and lovely, like a warm blanket over your soul. It really brightened our evening despite the rain and it was a perfect activity for our first night in Salzburg.
We purchased our tickets for this experience at ClassicTic.com. The price was reasonable considering you got a filling dinner and a delightful concert, plus the price of the funicular up to the fortress is included as well. We would have enjoyed our free time beforehand exploring the fortress more if it hadn’t been raining, but overall it was a wonderful and highly recommended evening, no matter how much you know about a classical music. After all, when in Salzburg…