Fandom Culture and Historic Places: Exhibiting at the Mozarthaus

Social science is an important part of my work. Fandom studies, reception analysis and social psychological research are essential for un...

Social science is an important part of my work. Fandom studies, reception analysis and social psychological research are essential for understanding audiences of historical genres. Validating and acknowledging their role in preservation helps facilitate a lasting personal and social connection to the genre(s) and artist subject(s).

This includes creating opportunities for audiences to celebrate and express their passion publicly. I've done this for Mozart anniversaries utilizing social media (See: "The Efficacy of Social Media and the Mozart Anniversary") and also through exhibition at one of the extant historical places associated with Mozart's life: Mozarthaus Vienna.

To mark Mozart's 259th birthday on January 27, 2015, I realized a new celebratory idea through a collection of sentiments from fans around the world to create and present Mozart's first global birthday greeting at the Mozarthaus. Now a museum with a full schedule of concerts and lectures, it was the largest and most opulent apartment ever occupied by Mozart and it is the only one surviving today. He wrote Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) here among many other works during what are considered to be some of his happiest and most prolific years (1784-1787).

Submissions utilized various media, representing 15 countries and gifted individuals from children to professionals! I'm so grateful for the partnership and support of Nina Noehring at the Mozarthaus and my colleague Brigitte Pfisterer who helped make the initiative a success. I decided to repeat the activity again the following year in 2016 in honor of Le Nozze di Figaro's 230th anniversary (See: "Figaro Provides Pictorial Narrative on Mozart Reception"). I hope that I'll be able to create a similar opportunity in the near future, perhaps in Salzburg at Mozart's birthplace or residence through a partnership with the Mozarteum.

Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Uruguay, UK, USA. These are the countries represented in my 2015 project. "The Mozartian Collective" (aka "The WolfGANG") demonstrates the power of community as a vehicle for preservation as well as the universality of music which is a light in our complex world. A quote from Dr. Max Bendiner comes to mind: "Music may achieve the highest of all missions: she may be a bond between nations, races, and states, who are strangers to one another in many ways; she may unite what is disunited, and bring peace to what is hostile."

Preservation isn't just about advocacy and preserving artifacts and buildings. It's about people. Without audiences, the past has no present or future, no potential, no sustainable path forward. It has no character or depth. That's what makes my approach to preservation unique from conventional preservation professionals who focus primarily on tangibles. Experiential design is key. Experiences reinforce and strengthen audience connectivity to the history and with each other. Shared experiences establish community, invaluable insight into human interest and a foundation of support from which the past can truly flourish.


The Salzkammergut: A Mozartian's Ideal Summer Destination

My ideal summer destination as a Mozartian? The Salzkammergut , of course! It's a resort area of lakes and mountains spanning from M...

My ideal summer destination as a Mozartian? The Salzkammergut, of course! It's a resort area of lakes and mountains spanning from Mozart's hometown of Salzburg eastwards along the Austrian Alpine Foreland and the Northern Limestone Alps to the peaks of the Dachstein Mountains. "Salzkammergut" translates as "Estate of the Salt Chamber" deriving from the Imperial Salt Chamber, the authority charged with operating the precious salt mines of the Habsburg Monarchy.

I hope you enjoy these photos from my first trip which recall so fondly those initial impressions from summers past. I was truly overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounded me, especially within the context of it being my first visit to Austria to experience Mozart's history and heritage. And being from Southeastern Ohio where hills, lakes and forests abound, the envelopment of Austria's Alpine ranges felt like home from the very beginning. I'd describe the experience using the (untranslatable) German concept of comfort, coziness, relaxation and contentment: Gemütlichkeit! I've visited the Salzkammergut twice and look forward to my return!

Among other activities during that first trip, I took a cruise on Lake Wolfgang (Wolfgangsee) via the S.S. Wolfgang Amadeus from St. Wolfgang to St. Gilgen, a picturesque village where Mozart's mother Anna Maria was born on Christmas Day in 1720 and where his sister Maria Anna ("Nannerl") lived with her husband until his death in 1801. Now known as the Mozarthaus St. Gilgen, the former residence has been owned by the Cultural Association Mozartdorf St. Gilgen since 2005 and was listed as an historical monument in 2007. It has a museum, concert hall and event space for weddings and other celebrations. Since 2005, St. Gilgen has been promoted as the "Mozart Village" by the Wolfgangsee Tourist Board.

St. Gilgen rightfully honors the Mozart women who do not receive the recognition they deserve for their own achievements as well as the vital roles they played in Mozart's success, for which they both made tremendous sacrifices. Anna Maria and Nannerl's likenesses are beautifully displayed on the exterior of the Mozarthaus St. Gilgen and since 2008, the Mozarthaus has displayed a permanent exhibit about their family's history, giving special attention to Nannerl and her extraordinary musical gifts.

There's a beautiful garden featuring a bronze fountain sculpture of Anna Maria as a child by sculptor Toni Schneider-Manzell. Although Wolfgang himself never visited St. Gilgen, his likeness (see photo above) was realized by Viennese art nouveau sculptor Karl Wollek in 1926. The fountain sculpture of the child prodigy is located in the town square (Mozartplatz) directly in front of St. Gilgen's town hall (Rathaus).

My photos and narrative are only a glimpse meant to pique your interest! No matter how much material I share with you, nothing can truly capture the experience of being there in person. This is the priceless and irreplaceable value of our historical sites. There's absolutely no substitution. When they're gone, they're gone. They provide a closeness to the past through an elevated sensory experience that's all-consuming and unparalleled. No architectural or technological reproduction can replace them. Synthetics cannot satiate our need for this organic connection to history and its figures.

Although visiting sites may not always be feasible financially or otherwise, you can still experience these special places and support preservation and advocacy efforts from home. How? In this instance, be sure to visit all of the links I've included in this article and watch videos like this that capture the breathtaking splendor of the Salzkammergut. You're not there, but it's the next best thing. You'll be inspired! 

In regards to becoming active in preservation initiatives with organizations, museums and other groups, read my article, "Hats and Ideas: The Mozartian Collective and The Power of Preservation" for ideas, visit my resources page for directories and contact me with any questions. I hope that my readership (aka "The WolfGANG") will take the opportunity this summer to re-energize their commitment and take even the smallest action. It all counts. And it takes all of us working together, near and far, in measures big and small, to ensure our success!


Strahov Monastery: The Power of Place in Mozart History and Heritage

Since May is National Preservation Month, the peak travel season is upon us, and we're nearing the month of June when I took my thir...

Since May is National Preservation Month, the peak travel season is upon us, and we're nearing the month of June when I took my third and most recent trip to Prague, I thought it was a good time to recognize an historic place I visited there associated with the history of W.A. Mozart: The Strahov Monastery. It's a case study in the power of place regarding Mozart's history and heritage.

Architectural phenomenology is the proper term, a newer field of study introduced to me by my twin sister Sheryl with whom I recently collaborated on a related project in popular music, The Surf Speaks: Voices of a Living History. It frames the broader topic of audiences and their role in the preservation and relevance of music landmarks. And how emotional attachments to place and associated feelings of musical and environmental nostalgia motivate and sustain their efforts (heritage tourism, etc). 

Our research caught the attention of cultural sociologists at Griffith University, a top research institution in Australia, and is being published this year in a new book, entitled Remembering Popular Music's Past: Memory, Heritage, History. The edited collection will be published by Anthem Press, a leading independent publisher of innovative academic research, educational material and reference works in established and emerging fields. I certainly look forward to applying what I've learned to the places where Mozart visited, lived and performed.

The Strahov Monastery is the oldest Premonstratensian monastery in Bohemia. The organ in The Basilica of Assumption of Our Lady at the monastery was one of many organs played by Mozart during his lifetime. He indulged when visiting the city in the autumn of 1787 for the premiere of his opera, Don Giovanni. He was accompanied to the monastery by his friend, the celebrated opera singer Josepha Duschek. Josepha and her husband Franz, a renowned composer and musician, lived at the Villa Bertramka where Mozart was their house guest. 

The following photo of the organ loft is from the official website:

The monastery's organ was, and still remains, a much admired instrument. The organ Mozart would have played on was replaced in 1900 (source). But it still has its original Baroque casing and the architectural and acoustical footprint of the Basilica remain intact. Its overall environs are authentic to the period.

Our Mozart Society of America conference group attended a service there complete with organ music. To sightread and sing along with the program was an experience I'll never forget. To grasp an idea of its beauty, watch Strahov Monastery Organist Vladimir Roubal perform on the instrument earlier this year. 

The following are photos I took during our visit. Interior photography wasn't permitted.

Norbert Lehmann, the monastery's organist at the time of Mozart's visit, had written a sketch of his improvisation shortly after their encounter. It was preserved and later cataloged as KV. 528a. Listen! It's described in the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe (New Mozart Edition) as the following: 

Fragmentary Postscript of an Organ Improvisation by Mozart. Allegedly from the Strahov Monastery, Autumn 1787. The authenticity of this piece is doubtful (Original German: Fragmentarische Nachschrift einer Orgelimprovisation Mozarts. Entstanden angeblich Kloster Strahov, Herbst 1787. Die Echtheit dieses Stueckes ist zweifelhaft). 

Although the improvisational sketch is "doubtful" to scholars (Lehmann himself says he was distracted when writing it) and may not be accurate to the note, it's still documentary evidence of Mozart's visit.  Lehmann provided an account in 1818 at the request of Mozart's first biographer, Franz Xaver Niemetschek. Although written decades later, where you might expect some romanticized retrospect, it's still valuable in its rarity and detail as to how Mozart improvised, selected registers, used pedals, etc.

It's never desirable for historical integrity to be compromised in any manner, whether it be documents, artifacts or buildings. But vulnerability in human recollection and the replacement of artifacts and architectural elements are inevitable over time. Still, none of this breaks our bond to an historic place. Somewhere between the extant architecture, documentary evidence and our willing imagination, we find ourselves in the midst of living history in continuum. 

We're motivated by what I mentioned previously: emotional attachments to place and associated feelings of musical and environmental nostalgiaArchitectural phenomenology is about the power of place, of suggestion (filling in the blanks to create a narrative) and of subject. We want to be there because Mozart was there. It's that simple. And this artist-audience attachment is vital to the preservation of Mozart's history and heritage. Protecting and nourishing that relationship is a shared responsibility of our guardianship as a community of professionals and admirers.


Bertramka Declared National Cultural Landmark By Minister of Culture

Photo: Archive Blesk. Blesk.CZ. On January 28th, the day after Mozart's 263rd birthday, the Maestro received one of the best gifts...

Photo: Archive Blesk. Blesk.CZ.

On January 28th, the day after Mozart's 263rd birthday, the Maestro received one of the best gifts the 21st Century could offer him: the preservation of his beloved friends' villa where he was a house guest in 1787 and 1791. Read more about this history.

Bertramka, whose decline has been exacerbated by neglect over the past few years, was declared a National Cultural Landmark by the Minster of Culture, Antonín Staněk. This new designation means that the property will now have state protection and funding for rehabilitation and maintenance.

The following are local news articles (select translate in browser):
"Mozart's Villa Bertramka is a National Cultural Monument. The New Status Helps Her With Funding" (Blesk.CZ)
"Prague Villa Bertramka, Where Mozart also Resided, Became a National Cultural Monument" (Aktualne.CZ)

I'd like to thank my colleague David Bahlman, an Architectural Historian and Preservationist, for his work in this matter and for keeping me informed through his contacts in Prague.

I thought this would never happen, so I'm feeling both excitement and disbelief. If you've been following my coverage of this story, you'll know that I've long championed the effort with Friends of Bertramka and other allies. It was last February when I penned an article about what seemed like a hopeless situation.

Read my article: "Praguers No Longer Understand Mozart, Metro States as Bertramka Declines."

Now, one year later, after mounting public pressure, there is action. We raised our voices as a global community alongside the concerned citizens of Prague and succeeded. Bertramka has been saved from an uncertain future, a future that could have ended in collapse or demolition. Victory is ours!