Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 4: Eisenstadt

On our way from Budapest to Vienna, we stopped in Eisenstadt, a little town just on the other side of the border between Hungary and Austria. We had one reason (Josef Haydn) and two destinations (the Esterhazy Palace and the Haydn House). The town center was pretty quiet that Sunday afternoon as we ate lunch as quickly as we could at a little cafe. Then we hurried back to the palace for the tour before the scheduled afternoon concert. It turns out there was no need, as the tours started late, and neither guide seemed to know an abridged version of the palace tour. So we heard all about the family that had employed Josef Haydn, including their connections to the ruling Austrian Hapsburgs and their marital woes. The one happy marriage ended prematurely with the death of the wife at 35 (left). We also saw the baroque palace chapel, complete with preserved(?) body in a glass coffin, supposedly St. Constantine, the Roman legionnaire who converted to Christianity.

The Haydnsaal (Haydn Hall) is an ornate performance hall in the palace. The Chorale was scheduled to go on at 2:30pm, but I don't think the formal singing started until 3pm. Not that the audience minded, all 5 of them or so. And they were hurried off the stage 20 minutes later so some kids could play dress-up and make believe. Ah well. The acoustics were at least as good in the open-air courtyard below, where they sang "Nellie Bly" as a parting gesture to the palace.

Second stop: the Haydn house and museum, where we had cheerful guides with better English. For 12 of his 40 years in service to the Esterhazy family, the composer and his wife lived on one floor of a house just down the street from the palace. The prince even paid to have the house remodeled and expanded after two different fires. Like the Mozart house/museum in Salzburg, the museum contains portraits, some personal effects, and compositions. By the way, that marriage was also arranged and unhappy, and like many of the Esterhazys, they also took lovers. Poor Haydn: as my memento of his home, the only thing I took a picture of was his kitchen. You can see a photo of a piano-forte he used in the header on the museum's website.

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