Sep 8, 2020

The Mozarts' Viennese Lodgings in 1762 and the House Zum rothen Säbel

The article with the above title, which I co-authored with Dexter Edge, has just been published online in the journal Eighteenth-Century Music.


It is generally believed that when the Mozart family arrived in Vienna on 6 October 1762 they initially may have spent a night or two in the inn 'Zum weißen Ochsen' on Fleischmarkt, then moved for the remainder of their stay to lodgings on Tiefer Graben, either in a house belonging to Johann Heinrich Ditscher (Otto Erich Deutsch, 1961) or one belonging to Gottlieb Friedrich Fischer (Walther Brauneis, 1991). All modern Mozart biographies transmit either Deutsch's claim or Brauneis's, and many continue to state that the Mozarts stayed at 'Zum weißen Ochsen'. We have been able to show that none of these claims has any merit, and no primary evidence supports them. The notion that the Mozarts stayed at 'Zum weißen Ochsen' can be traced back to an article published in 1860, where it is asserted without evidence; the idea was then popularized in a children’s story about Wolfgang. The claim that the Mozarts lodged on Tiefer Graben is based on a fanciful interpretation of a mistranscribed street name in Schiedermair's 1914 edition of Leopold Mozart's letter of 19 October 1762. Leopold actually wrote that the family lodged in 'Fierberggaßl'. We argue that this refers to the still-existing Färbergasse, and that the Mozarts may have stayed in a house on that street (today the site of Färbergasse 3), with a long narrow wing fitting Leopold's description of their cramped quarters. We present other new details about this episode in Wolfgang's early life, including the identity of a customs official to whom he played a minuet on the violin, and the literary source of Leopold’s remark that their lodgings were '1000 Schritt lang und 1. Schritt breit'. We also discuss the history of the house name ‘Zum rothen Säbel’, which is used incorrectly in the Mozart literature; at the time of the Mozarts' visit in 1762, it referred to the house on Färbergasse in which – we argue – they actually stayed.

The article can be accessed on the journal's website.

A plan of the house Zum Rothen Säbel from 1802 showing its long wing that is (as Leopold Mozart put it) "one thousand paces long and one pace wide" (A-Wsa, Unterkammeramt, A33, alte Baukonsense 5618/1802).

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2020. All rights reserved.