Earlier this week, the Mayrische Musikalienhandlung , a Salzburg institution and one of the oldest music shops in the world, sadly announced...

The Mayrische Musikalienhandlung in Salzburg Announces Autumn Closure

Earlier this week, the Mayrische Musikalienhandlung, a Salzburg institution and one of the oldest music shops in the world, sadly announced its closure. I initially discovered the news via Bärenreiter on social media in which they cited Constanze Mozart's diary entry: "... I also wanted one of the first prints of the biography (Mozart biography by Nissen) to be sent to me through the Mayrische Buchhandlung as soon as possible," Mozart's widow wrote on September 27, 1828.

Having sold books, scores, sheet music and more since 1592, this is, needless to say, a devastating loss for the city, for the industry and for music history and heritage. The company's announcement, which concluded with a congratulatory remark for the centenary of the Salzburger Festspiele (Salzburg Festival), stated the following:

"It is with great regret that the Mayrische Musikalienhandlung in Salzburg announces that the operation will be closed at 30.11.2020 (November 30th). The sale of the sheet music editions starts from 01.10.2020 (October 1st). The reasons behind the closure lie, on the one hand, in the ever increasing pressure of competition from the internet. On the other hand, there is an increased volume of copies in the teaching sector, which has made the sales of sheet music more and more smaller. Unfortunately, restructuring measures, as well as the introduction of their own web shop, have not stopped this development either. The decline in sales due to COVID-19 since mid-March 2020 has increased economic pressure once again. This means that the continuation of the music shop is no longer economically possible. The owner, Universal Edition AG, Vienna, has already financially supported the musical business in recent years. Ultimately, however, the company has to face the economic reality and therefore closes this branch. The music shop Musik Müller, which belongs to the company, continues in Vienna. The music shop Mayrische thanks its long-standing customers and its long-standing employees for their long-standing cooperation and loyalty."

ORF Salzburg's August 25th headline is one of heartbreak: "Music bookstore closes after 430 years." The article emphasizes the shock of local musicians as they lament the loss of Mayrische's specialist knowledge curated over centuries that cannot be found anywhere else. On August 27th, Der Standard ventured further into the details of its closure with an article disclosing reasons for the shop's economic predicament, including its vulnerability as an unsubsidized cultural enterprise. 

I decided to place an order online as a respectful adieu and act of support for this historical landmark. But unfortunately the store isn't currently shipping to the U.S. due to the pandemic. They're only shipping within Europe. So, if you meet this geographical requirement, I invite you to shop in my stead! Their offerings are endless, so allow ample time for browsing. One of the items I did have in my virtual cart was the Mozart KlangArt 2021 Calendar. I wanted to purchase it for my home office space because, well, 2021 can't arrive soon enough. And at this point, I think we all need a reminder that 2020 will, in all of its madness, eventually end. The 2021 calendar marks the 230th anniversary year of Mozart's untimely departure in 1791 and includes a CD with sacred works performed by some of the most gifted interpreters of his music (listen to samples).

My first visit to Salzburg was a solo adventure, and since I tend to explore and navigate unfamiliar places using locations as visual markers, the Mayrische Musikalienhandlung was indeed a fixture of remembrance with its historical renown and signature red flag with customers browsing bins on the ancient street. When I returned two years later, it was a welcome sight. I'm deeply saddened, both personally and professionally, that its presence and working expertise will soon be lost to us. 

The fact that such an establishment cannot survive in one of the few music metropolises in Europe is a frightening reality as we look to the future. Some will resurface successfully from the pandemic and others will not. And we must take note. When our oldest and most treasured exponents begin to falter, this marks the beginning of a collapse in our ecosystem. 

Yes, I'm pensive these days. A feeling of powerlessness has become a regular sensation as my contracts have been canceled and guardianship efforts for music history and heritage have all but ceased. Preservation initiatives, concerts, tourism, museum operations, events, etc. Not one aspect of our sector has gone unscathed. And while other industries begin to recover, our march towards recovery is arduously complicated in the face of financial dependence on the fickle generosity of donors and non-profit organizations whose funding availability is never certain, nor guaranteed. 

How can we continue to operate in such a fragile and compromised manner? A "return to normal" would be devastating when "normal" was something we could never afford in the first place. The pandemic has revealed a great deal about what's wrong with society and how its wealth is immorally and unethically distributed, including the negligence of refusing to properly subsidize the arts. 

With an abundance of new research demonstrating public and private benefits from the driving economic force of a billion-dollar arts industry, there's no excuse for governments to refuse support any longer. My hope is that out of this darkness promising solutions will emerge that leave us in a better place than we were before. In the words of my colleague David Bahlman: "I think we need to speak about finance, remuneration and value loud and often as primary issues in order to retain the integrity of heritage projects and the dignity of those who make them happen."



Rachel Lucas said...

Sherry, thank you so much for bringing this very sad announcement to our attention. It was somewhere we always visited when in Salzburg and it was always a highlight. We were in London today and the quietness and permanent closures of so many familiar businesses was terrible to see. Of course, everything will recover in time (much time) but when something of this historic importance is lost, we can never recreate it and we are all poorer.
I too will place an order and join you in wishing this truly dreadful year over. Thank you for all you do, for music and for the glory of Mozart x

Sherry Davis said...

Thank you for your comment, Rachel, and for joining me to honor the Mayrische with one final purchase. I sincerely appreciate your patronage of my work and for being a part of a community I hope will only continue to grow and expand in its reach to make a difference. x