Janos Gereben
Janos Gereben

Fellowship Title:

Some Aspects of 18th Century Urban Problems

Janos Gereben
October 28, 1969

Fellowship Year

Nov., 1969
Lerchengasse 28/43,
1080 Wien

VIENNA—“That’s it, Frau Dietrich,” the man screamed, “I will not be bothered by your whining anymore. Have you no respect for art?”

“Out, Herr Doktor, out this instance,” the woman yelled back. “Nobody can sleep around here with that infernal noise you’re making and you haven’t paid the rent for months…”

And so, Ludwig van Beethoven, noisemaker and occasional rent-payer, upped once again and moved—for the fifth time that year.

Some call America the “mobile society.” Hah! With one or two address changes a year? What to call Vienna of the 18th and 19th centuries then, with her great musicians spending but a few weeks in their “homes” before moving or being thrown out?

Vienna, often accused as “the city of musicians,” has always honored her artists once they were dead. As long as they were alive, however, they had nothing but trouble rent-wise what with mundane money matters and people complaining about the noise and a somewhat eccentric behavior.

There must be twice as many “Beethoven lived here” signs here than there are “Washington slept here” tablets in all of America.

And with police regulations in Europe about reporting addresses, the musical output of Vienna residents must have been severely curtailed between moving their pianos and filling out forms at police stations.

POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCES—Beautiful Vienna was always a nice place to visit but with only 20% of her houses having basic conveniences, few demanding artists may want to live here, especially in face of the burghers’ resistance to piano-playing after the late-late hour of 9.

In the following, we attempt to trace the movements of only a few of Vienna’s greats on some occasions—just to give encouragement to people similarly on the move today.

If Ludwig had to do it, why…

The good people of Vienna must not be blamed for Beethoven’s many moves. He was responsible for his plight himself. Temperamental and eccentric, he also made special demands such as an open and scenic view from his windows, a large room with only a few pieces of furniture (so he’d have enough space to walk up and down), and a very small amount to be paid. The last item, clearly, was the most outrageous of his eccentric demands.

Beethoven came to Vienna in 1792, but his whereabouts until 1794 are still unknown today. In that year, he lived in the house of Prince Karl Lichnowsky on Alserstrasse and the price was right: the residence was provided free of charge to the young musician who was still fairly unknown at this time. He wrote his Opus 1 here, trios for pianoforte, violin and violincello.

He moved the next year, in 1795, into a house at the corner of Lowelstrasse and Metastasiogasse, near the site where the Burgtheater was built a century later.

During 1796 and 1797, he was unaccounted for once again, but it is believed that he stayed away from Vienna most of the time on concert tours. In 1799, he turned up once again in the heart of the city, at No. 10 on the Graben, but spent the summer in Unterdobling which at that time was still outside Vienna’s boundary.

In 1801, for a short time, he lived in the Hamberger house, Seilerstatte 15 — the same building where Haydn had lived before. Returning to the Graben, Beethoven composed his First Symphony, but by the time of the Second Symphony (1802), he lived at Probusgasse 6. Already suffering from increasingly defective hearing, he wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament here.

FEW OF THE MANY—Just four of Beethoven’s homes in and around Vienna. On the opposite page is left to right, top: Eroikahaus on Doblinger Hauptstrasse; Baden Beethovenhaus where he wrote the Ninth Symphony; bottom: the Jeneweingasse house and another on Pfarrplatz. Photos by Janos Gereben and Wiener Presse Built Dienst Votava fur Bundeskanzeramt, Section III Bundespresse Dienst (true).

In 1803, Beethoven accepted a commission to compose an opera for the Theater an der Wien and was given official lodging in the theater building. Happy with the price, the space and lack of complaining neighbors, he stayed here an unprecedented three years. True, during this time he also maintained at apartment in the Pasqualati house on Mdkerbastei and a summer residence at Doblinger Hauptstrasse 92. At the latter, he composed the Third Symphony and so the house was named after the Eroica. The opera composed for the generous theater was of course Fidelio, which premiered there on Nov. 20, 1805.

By 1807, Beethoven moved to Baden, 16 miles south of Vienna. The next year, he returned to Heiligenstadt, at Grinzingerstrasse 64, where his apartment was right next to another where the Grillparzer family lived. Franz Grillparzer, later to become one of the greatest Austrian playwrights, was only 17 at the time and he stayed clear of the composer. His mother didn’t. When Beethoven noticed once that Grillparzer’s mother was listening to him while he was playing the piano, he stopped and did not touch the instrument until the family left the house. Symphonies 5 and 6 were written here along with his violin concerto and the Razumovsky Quartets.

His next apartment was in a house near the Schottentor, next to where the University stands today. 1809: on Schreyvogelgasse, near the Karl Lueger Ring. He spent the days of Vienna’s bombardment by Napoleon in a cellar in Rauhensteingasse and in 1810 returned to Molkerbastei 8, only to move on to the Bartenstein house, next door. It was during his residence here that he wrote the Eighth Symphony and appeared before the delegates to the Vienna Congress of 1815 in a grand concert.

Until 1816, Beethoven stayed at Seilerstatte, in the oldest part of the city. The next year, he moved to a house, still preserved, at Landstrasser Hauptstrasse 26, but during May and June he lived at Pfarrplatz 2, in Heiligenstadt, and from July in a house on Nussdorferstrasse, which has since been demolished. Rounding out his busiest year (as far as the number of apartments is concerned) of 1817, he moved back into the city for the winter, to Trautsohngasse 2 in Josefstadt.

A remarkably stable period of two years followed (1818-1820) when he lived in the town of Modling, about 10 miles south of Vienna. Here, he changed addresses only twice and lived in the Hafner house at Hauptstrasse 79 in 1820 when he completed Missa Solemnis. The next winter, he returned to the inner city, first to the Augustine house on Landstrasser Hauptstrasse, then to Unterdobling, then again to Baden where, this time, he lived at Rathausgasse 24.

In the spring of 1823 (after a brief residence at Gumpendorferstrasse 24), he became the guest of Count Pronay at Hetzendorferstrasse 75, but soon moved back to the rural peace of Baden where he finished the Ninth Symphony.

Attracted to the city, the next year he moved again, this time to Ungarngasse 5, then to Hadikgasse 62. During 1824, he also lived in two houses, since demolished, on Johannesgasse and Krugerstrasse in the First District near where the Staatsoper stands today.

He spent the summer of 1825 in the Gutenbrunn Palace in Baden and moved finally to the house on Schwarzspanierstrasse where he died on March 26, 1827.

BEETHOVENGANG—A segment of the road between Heiligenstadt and Kahlenberg Hill, Beethoven’s favorite walking path. On page 5, top: the Beethoven-Grillparzerhaus on Grinzingerstrasse; bottom: Molkerbastei where he lived 1803-1806 and again from 1810 to 1812.

PARTIAL LIST—Above are but a few places of Vienna Beethoveniana while similar(if somewhat shorter) lists are also available for the movements in the city of Balzac, Berg, Brahms, Bruckner, Chopin, Dvorak, Flotow, Freud, Gluck, Goethe, Goldmark, Grieg, Grillparzer, Haydn, Hofmannsthal, Kafka, Lehar, Liszt, Mahler, Marx, Millocker, Mozart, Nicolai, Reinhardt, Schikaneder, Schumann, Sibelius, Strauss (both Johanns, Josef, and Richard), von Suppe, Wagner, Weber, Werfel, Wolf, Zweig—to be alphabetical about it. True sightseeing fans have a hopeless task in Vienna, which may be solved only by a residence of a couple of years.

Joseph Haydn would have moved around just as much as Beethoven, had he not spent 30 years in the rent-free splendor of Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy’s Eisenstadt palace. Otherwise, he started early, at the age of five when he moved to Hainburg from Rohrau an der Leitha where he was born in 1732.

At the age of eight, Haydn was employed as a choirboy in St. Stephen’s Cathedral and spent 10 years (until his voice broke) sharing what he later described “an exceedingly uncomfortable attic” with five other boys in a house adjoining the church.

In 1750, he moved into a tiny room in a house next to Michaelerkirche and then on to Seilerstatte. No rent could have been sufficiently low for him at this time when he made a living of sort by playing the organ on Sundays at the Church of the Brethren of Charity. He left Vienna for Lower Austria where, as a piano teacher, he finally found room-and-board with various members of the aristocracy.

SUCCESS STORY—No sign of his youth spent in poverty shows in this portrait of Joseph Haydn, painted at the time when he was music director for Esterhazy. On page 6: his house at Haydngasse 19 where he spent most of his life after the prince died in 1790.

Haydn struck it rich when Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, the wealthiest and most powerful aristocrat in Hungary, employed him as director of music at his magnificent palace at Eisenstadt, the capital of Burgenland. The appointment lasted until the prince’s death in 1790, and from 1767 on Haydn accompanied his patron every winter to the Esterhazy residence in Vienna on Wallnerstrasse.

When the Esterhazy orchestra was disbanded, Haydn moved to Vienna permanently, first to Seilerstatte 15, then to the Neuer Markt, at the heart of the old medieval city, which is no longer standing.

In 1795, he acquired the house, which is today the Haydn Museum at Haydngasse 19. He lived and worked here until 1809 when Napoleon occupied Vienna for the second time. As one of Napoleon’s favorite composers, Haydn was treated with great courtesy by the French and when he died on May 31 of that year, the emperor’s own grenadiers served as guard of honor.

But death did not bring an end to Haydn’s movements in Vienna. In 1820, his body was transferred to the baroque Bergkirche at Eisenstadt and his skull was stolen by a phrenologist. It wasn’t until well over a century later that the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde located and bought the skull back from a Viennese doctor. Finally, in 1954, all of Haydn’s remains were buried again in a mausoleum in Bergkirche.

Franz Schubert’s life in Vienna was more similar to Beethoven’s troubled existence here than to Haydn’s success.

During the short 31 years of his life, Schubert was permanently broke and he couldn’t have found any place to live were it not for the help of friends. His story in Vienna is as much a succession of people he lived with as a list of locations.

Schubert was born in 1797 at Nussdorferstrasse 54 (see picture on the opposite page) which is still standing and is now the Schubert Museum under the city’s administration.

From 1808 until 1813, he was a choirboy at the Jesuit School in the Universitatsplatz, and until 1817 he continued to live with his parents at Lichtental in what is today Saulengasse 3 in the Ninth District.

When he left home, a group of friends passed him along from home to home, which included Johann Mayrhofer’s on Wipplingerstrasse and Franz von Schober’s in Tuchlauben. In 1822, Schubert gave his address as a school on Gruntorgasse in the suburb of Rossau; a year later, on the Stubenbastei.

He emerged again in 1827 at Backerstrasse 36, but only briefly before returning to the hospitality of Schober and other friends.

The last months of Schubert’s life were clouded by anxiety and restlessness more than ever before. For a short while, he stayed at Technikerstrasse 6, next to Karlskirche and the home of the painter Moritz von Schwind who was another of Schubert’s many hosts.

Early in 1828, already mortally ill, Schubert moved to the house in the Fourth District, now Kettenbruckengasse 6, where he died on Nov. 19, probably of typhoid.

Through the wealthy society of Vienna’s Biedermeier period, many of the old inns and hostelries where Schubert used to meet his friends are as well known today as the houses where he lived. Among them are: the Ungarische Krone on Seilerstatte, the Gruner Anker at Grunagergasse 10, the inn called Where the Wolf Preached to the Geese (after its 16th Century fresco), and the Biersack on Gentzgasse. Of these, the Gruner Anker is the only one still in business today.

The composer’s famous Schubertiades took place in the homes of his friends, especially in the Landskrongasse house of Josef von Spaun. Vienna may not have as many “Schubert lived here” houses as it keeps record of for Beethoven, but with the memories of the Schubertiades and of his many friends (and also hosts), the city is fairly teeming with “Schubert played the piano here” signs.

Finally, a brief record of the housing problems of another Vienna great who never really considered himself a resident of the city.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart belongs to Salzburg and this statement can readily be confirmed by any resident of that city. But he did spend 10 of his 30 years in Vienna and died here—although his grave in the St. Marx cemetery is unknown.

During the years he spent in Vienna, Mozart lived mainly in the inner city because the rapid expansion of the suburbs into desirable residential areas (which Beethoven preferred) had not yet started. His first visit to Vienna was in 1762 at the age of six on a concert tour organized by his father; Empress Maria Theresia was attending herself at one of the concerts. Father and son lodged at an inn called Zum Weissen Ochsen at what is now Fleischmarkt 22, in the oldest part of the city.

Mozart’s next visit was in 1767 when he lived at what is now Wipplingerstrasse 25. Here, he composed La Finta Semplice as well as a Mass for the Rennweg Orphanage Church. He stayed until the beginning of 1769.

When he came to Vienna again, on March 16, 1781, there was trouble. The archbishop of Salzburg, Hieronymus Colloredo, summoned him from Munich to the residence at Singerstrasse 7 to tell Mozart that he was fired from the service of the Salzburg court. For a time, Mozart was given a room in the home of the parents of his future wife, Constanze Weber, at Tuchlauben 6 in the First District. Later that year, he moved to No. 8 on the Graben where he composed Die Entfuhrung and Figaro, and married Constanze.

In the autumn of 1782, the couple moved again to the Wipplingerstrasse address where he had lived in 1767, but a week later they moved again to Salzgries 17.

MOZARTIANA—The composer’s portrait at the age of 12 (when he wrote his first opera), and the interior of one of the many houses he lived in, at Josefstadterstrasse 47. On the opposite page: a drawing of Rauhensteingasse 8 where he died in 1791.

There were two favorite days in Vienna for moving in those days: St. George’s and St. Michael’s. In 1783, Mozart used both days of good omen for finding a better place (he didn’t). On Apr. 23, it was to Salzgries 3 and on Sept. 29, to Schulerstrasse 8.

He remained at the latter address until St. George’s Day in 1787 when he moved to the Third District, at Landstrasser Hauptstrasse 75. From the summer of 1788 until 1790, he was at a house on Wipplingerstrasse, which would be No. 16 today if it were still there. His next move was his last, to Rauhensteingasse 8, where he died on Dec. 5, 1791.

Of the many places associated with Mozart’s music in Vienna, very few have survived. The old Burgtheater is gone, so is the theater in the Freihaus of the Fourth District where Die Zauberflote was first performed.

All that remains are the Ceremonial Hall of the National Library where Mozart conducted a number of concerts and St. Lawrence’s Church in the Seventh District.

And gone too with the mementos of inconvenience and suffering, is old Vienna where people, famous and unknown, could not find a place to live. All the world’s cities are having housing problems, but the new Vienna is among the very few where this problem is being solved, where it is the least acute.

Of course, piano-playing at night is still not accepted.

Vienna—the inner city


Received in New York on October 28, 1969.

Mr. Gereben is an Alicia Patterson Fund award winner, on leave from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. This article may be published with credit to Janos Gereben, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and the Alicia Patterson Fund.