In 1747 a Salzburg court violinist and composer by the name of Leopold Mozart married one Anna Maria Pertl, and they set up home in a small apartment on the third floor of a six-story house at Getreidegasse 9. The house dated back to the 12th Century, and was owned by Leopold Mozart's friend Johann Lorenz Hagenauer, a merchant and grocer. Here their seven children were born, although only two of them survived childhood: Maria Anna Walburga, born in 1751 and known in the family as 'Nannerl'; and Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus, born in 1756 and known everywhere as 'Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart'. The Mozart family lived in the house for 26 years.

Today the house is the Mozarts Geburtshaus [birth house] museum (as it has been since 1880), with exhibits spread across the first, second and third floors. I was first in to the museum when it opened at 09:05 on my first morning in Salzburg. The weather was very dull, with heavy rain forecast, and I took only a few photos of the wrought iron shop signs in Getreidegasse and of the front of the house before going in.

I was enjoying the display of 60 or so pictures, tickets, small documents and the like in the first small room – originally a store room but for a short time Wolfgang's bedroom – when a large party of Japanese tourists arrived with their guide and took the place over. So I moved on into the main living room, which has some interesting paintings of the family, but is otherwise quite plain, when another Japanese party came in through the other door, having come up the back stairs!

It was nice to be able to stand in the few rooms that the Mozart family occupied when Wolfgang was born, although the museum now spreads over several other apartments. But the museum is a strange one: designed by the American artist Robert Wilson, it's more of a concept or 'experience' than an informative museum as we know it. In the 'Birth Room', for example, a flock of geese is suspended from the ceiling, flying towards the window, signifying Mozart's music being carried out into the world. The Study is completely black, with a few illuminated portraits. Another room (not part of the original apartment) has drawings of Salzburg's churches hung upside down, and a relief map of the city on the ceiling, reflecting his urge to see things differently. A neon sign spells out 'Madame Mutter! Ich esse gerne Butter' [Madam Mother! I like to eat butter], the start of a poem by young Wolfgang for his mother which 'shows his pleasure in playing with words'. It's all very nicely done, and thought-provoking, but I did feel that the (few) interesting items on display were too often drowned by the presentation.

The bold colour over the whole of the front of the building, and its prominent 'Mozarts Geburtshaus' gold lettering, may give the impression to Mozart newcomers that the family occupied and perhaps even owned the whole building, whereas in fact they lived for 26 years in the small 5-room rented apartment at the front of the third floor. But young Wolfgang and his sister would have enjoyed the ice cream parlour that now occupies the ground floor!

It was starting to rain as I left the building at 10:25, and headed across the river to the Mozart family's second house in Makartsplatz. There's a reduced price for visiting both houses, which I didn't know beforehand, but luckily I still had my Geburtshaus ticket with me and the man on the desk was happy to take the difference.

The Mozarts moved here in 1773. The house, known as the Tanzmeisterhaus [Dancing Master's House], had been owned by the aristocratic dancing teacher Franz Gottlieb Speckner – in the 18th Century a dancing master held an important position in giving young aristocrats their all-important dancing lessons and preparing them for life at court. Speckner was a friend of the Mozarts and had been a witness at their wedding. When he died in 1767 the house went to his cousin Maria Anna Raab, who rented out the ballroom and other rooms on the first floor to wedding parties.

Eventually the Mozarts took over the first floor of the Tanzmeisterhaus as their apartment, and were at last able to invite friends and musicians into their home, as well as to escape the cramped living and working conditions of the Getreidegasse rooms – a problem that had worried Leopold a great deal during his European tours with the teenage Wolfgang, now a widely-known professional musician. Mozart's mother died in Paris in 1778 during a visit with Wolfgang, Mozart himself moved to Vienna in 1781, his sister Nannerl married and moved away in 1784, and his father lived alone in the house (but accompanied by a number of servants) until his death in 1787.

The museum in the Tanzmeisterhaus is excellent, presenting a lot of information and material from the time, and with two rooms dedicated to Leopold and Nannerl, which is nice, both being accomplished musicians themselves. Several keyboard instruments on display in the dance room, which I imagine is decorated as it was. The building was partly destroyed in WWII and an office block later built at the right-hand end (facing the building), but fortunately the International Mozarteum Foundation was able to purchase the office building in 1989, knock it down, and rebuild that part of the house using the original plans – they already owned the undamaged section. I emerged from the museum just after 12:00 feeling thoroughly frazzled after 3 hours of Mozart history!

By the end of the afternoon it was raining fairly hard, but I set off to St Sebastian churchyard (duty called!) to find the joint grave of Leopold Mozart, who died on 28 May 1787, and of his daughter-in-law Constanze. Interesting that her name is spelt 'Constantia' on the gravestone; in fact hers is the prominent memorial, under her second married name of course: 'Constantia von Nissen, Wittne Mozart, geborne von Weber' – Constanze Mozart was a cousin of the composer Carl Maria von Weber. Actually there are some spelling errors in the engraving: Wittne should be Witwe [widow], geborne should be geboren [born]; perhaps 'Constantia' was just a mistake by the stonemason.

It's interesting too that Leopold and Constanze are buried together, since they didn't get on (he never approved of her as a daughter-in-law). Also in the same plot are Jeannette Berchthold von Sonnenburg, Nannerl's 16-year-old daughter; Genovefa Weber, Carl Maria von Weber's mother; and Euphrosina Pertl, Wolfgang's grandmother.

Back in the city centre, on the wall of a house not far from Mozart's statue, I found a plaque that commemorates the death of Constanze and her sister: 'In diesem Hause starb am 6 Marz 1842 Mozarts Witwe Konstanze Nissen geborene Weber, und am 26 Oktober 1846 ihre Schwester Sophie Haibl, Mozarts treue Pflegerin in seiner Todeskrankheit' [In this house on 6 March 1842 died Mozart's widow Constanze Nissen (née Weber), and on 26 October 1846 her sister Sophie Haibl, Mozart's loyal nurse in his final illness]. Constanze spelt with 'K' this time!

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