A trip to Vienna and Budapest?  Clearly music was going to play a part in our plans.

Our first experience happened months ago, right at the beginning, when we went to a local school’s Hungarian evening and a group of young violinists played Dvorak’s “Humoreske” before the fairy tale was performed.  It grabbed Tias’s attention and you could hear him humming it around the house for weeks afterwards.

In Vienna, we attended a chamber music concert in the Mozart House. (I didn’t take my camera so you’ll have to link through to get a sense of the room.)  The Sala Terrena is a room in which he’d given concerts and has wonderful acoustics.  The 4 musicians dressed in period costume and played Mozart, Dvorak, Hayden and a little more Mozart for a small audience of about 25 people.  A moment I’ll never forget:  hearing the first strains of Dvorak’s “Humoreske” as Tias clenched his fist midair and uttered a soft, “YES!” Such a rewarding moment.

We also went to an opera in Vienna, of course.  But not the kind that springs to mind.


At the Schoenbrunn Palace there is a marionette theater and they perform operas to recordings of the original. Small wooden figures giving such expressive movements. It’s hard to believe. We saw the Zauber Flote (Magic Flute). The story was interesting and the troupe made sure to add little moments of humour that kids would appreciate. The special effects were awesome. I was tired, tired, tired and almost fell asleep at one point – and to think that I was worried about the kids’ attention span at the opera.


One of our favourite music appreciation books is The Farewell Symphony and when I realized that the Estyerhazy palace in which it is set is situated between Vienna and Budapest, I was so excited. Even more than the kids.

Prince Nicholas had what amounted to a small cultural city here, with an opera house, marionette theater, and several music rooms in the palace proper. He had a troupe of musicians that traveled with him and his court. When they stayed too long at this summer palace one year, keeping Hayden and the other musicians from seeing their families, Hayden wrote the Farewell Symphony. In the last movement, each musician in turn stopped playing, snuffed his candle, and left the stage. In this room. The next day the court returned to the city. A fabulous story for awakening (or inflaming) a passion for classical music.

Often when we visit places they tell us that the house/castle/palace had fallen into disrepair but has been restored and I often wondered what it looked like before the restoration. This palace has been only partially restored since the fall of Communism in Hungary. An interesting glimpse of the outline of an immense formal park with huge rows of trees but without flowers. Plain white walls had areas scraped to show the Baroque painting underneath.

Esterhazy gardens

We had put together two CDs of music to listen to during the driving, a mix of Viennese and Hungarian composers, and Tias often chose to listen to those playlists on his own on my iPod. Naturally we listened to the Farewell Symphony several times, but I wish I could see a performance since it is so hard to get a sense of the abruptness of the last movement without seeing them leaving.

Mátyás Pince Restaurant

For Tias’ 9th birthday, we went to the Mátyás Pince Restaurant, named after the Hungarian King Mátyás (Matthias).  Tias liked Budapest with all the churches and places bearing his name. At the restaurant there was music and dance and goooood food. Hungarian folk music is confusing, since it is apparently played largely by Romani, but it is not Romani music. Nevertheless, as my father-in-law says, if Hungarian music doesn’t move you, God help you.

(I uploaded several dozen photos before dawn today.  They await you in my Flickr account.)


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