Why Austria? The Answer is Classic

By Eric Harry

A look at why Austria is the current home and historic birthplace of Classical music. Is it because Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, Johann Strauss, Franz Schubert, and Anton Bruckner found their origins and inspirations here?

Or is it because Austrian musicians continue to keep the tradition of classical music alive today.

Vienna’s Baroque Culture

For many centuries, Vienna was the glittering capital of a great empire... the Habsburg dynasty. Many of the aristocrats at the imperial court created a patronage environment for composers, musicians and artists. It is thus not surprising that many great composers were attracted to the city – they came, stayed and wrote immortal music: Gluck, Beethoven and Brahms were born in other countries; Mozart, Haydn, Bruckner and Mahler hailed from within Austria.


At only 4 years of age Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was taught by his father. At the tender age of 5, he was presented as a child prodigy and performed his first musical tour throughout Europe.

Mozart’s career was closely linked to the city of Vienna. Aged 6, Mozart performed for the Austrian royals at the Hall of Mirrors at Schloss Schönbrunn and enchanted Empress Maria Theresia and the rest of the imperial family with his talent and his liveliness. Mozart moved to Vienna in 1781 aged 25. In the House of the Teutonic Order (Deutschordenshaus; 1010, Singerstraße 7) Mozart fell out with the Archbishop of Salzburg. As a result Mozart opted for a freelance career in Vienna. Mozart and his family moved to the “Mozarthaus” (1010, Domgasse 5) into a spacious apartment. Mozart was respected and successful as a musician and happy in his marriage. His years at the ‘Mozarthaus’ would be the most productive period in his working and composing life. He composed piano concerti, chamber music works and the very famous opera “The Marriage of Figaro” (Die Hochzeit des Figaro). Today, the Mozarthaus is a museum dedicated to the composer’s life.

Beethoven, Student of Mozart

In 1787 Beethoven moved to Vienna where he worked and studied with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn. In 1795 he made his first public appearance at the Vienna Burgtheater. He was strongly bound to aristocracy and the Viennese society and Beethoven often dedicated his work to them. Their support or employment left Beethoven a lot of time to life and work as a free artist. In 1794 he first noticed an impairment in his hearing, which was diagnosed incurable in 1802. Around this period he composed the “Eroica Symphonie” and the “Symphonie No.5” Beethoven hearing problem increased rapidly from 1801 to 1818. In 1814 he presented his one and only opera “Fidelio”, in 1815 he conducted his last concert and around 1818 he went completely deaf. In his late period, nearly deaf he composed the “Choral Symphony, No.9”.

Beethoven’s impressive piano writing and ambitious symphonies made quick splashes, and by the time he was onto his Fifth Symphony in 1808 heads of state at peace accords in Vienna would schedule their meetings around Beethoven performances so as to not miss them.


At the age of 8 Joseph Haydn was sent to Vienna as a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Until 1750 he studied violin and various keyboard instruments. It was at that time that he started to compose his first work.


Born to immigrant parents in the Himmelpfortgrund suburb of Vienna, Schubert’s uncommon gifts for music were evident from an early age. In 1821, Schubert was granted admission to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde as a performing member, which helped establish his name among the Viennese citizenry. He gave a concert of his own works to critical acclaim in March 1828, the only time he did so in his career. He died eight months later at the age of 31. Appreciation of Schubert's music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades following his death. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the 19th century, and his music continues to be popular.

Johann Strauss, Jr.

Johann Strauss Jr. was born on the 25th of October 1825, as the first son of Johann Strauss Sr. His father, a famous musician himself, forbid him a musical career. But Johann Strauss Jr. cared more for his violin lessons, than his schoolwork. In 1844 he performed his first concert at the Dommayer in Hietzing, a Viennese suburb. When his father died in 1849, Strauss Jr. had already established himself as the Viennese Waltz King. He conquered big crowds of fans with his tours through Europe and America and trigged a world wide Strauss hysteria.


Johannes Brahms became the manager of the Vienna Singers’ Academy in 1862 and in 1868. Vienna became his second home. From 1872 to 1875 he conducted the “Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien”.

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