Two iconic European cities, Budapest and Vienna, host exceptional traditions of classical music, operas, unique folk music, and modern club scenes. This amalgamation of music traditions are showcased throughout the cities in glorious buildings such as the Vienna State Opera. Walk along streets that Mozart once traversed, and satisfy your ears with the some of the most renowned musicians in the world.

Budapest

After visiting iconic sights of Budapest (like the Chain Bridge and Parliament) you turn your eyes—or ears, rather—to the music cultures present in modern city. Here, you will find a tantalizing mixture of classical, opera, jazz, and folk music intermingling with the booming of modern electronic and club music of today. You have a unique chance to experience all ends of the musical spectrum in Budapest.

young dancing women in traditional folk dress on wedding feast ceremony.

Take a step back into history as the melodies of traditional Hungarian music spill out into the streets. The folk music in Hungary is a unique mixture of the influence of different cultures, though scholars do not agree on all of its conjectured origins. Elements of Mongol and Russian traditions mix with standards of Western music, and even hold nods to an array of other Eastern elements, creating a unique flavor of Hungarian tradition. It is one that connects Western culture to the East. The notes change as time, and music, march on.

1876: There’s a strong presence of a musical culture in Budapest, with classical and operas at full height, operettes gaining in popularity, and folk music (called “verbunkos”) still in people’s hearts. Composers and musicians who make it to the world’s stage are abound, and gather large followings around Europe. In this year, the energy in the musical community is high: Franz Liszt, perhaps Hungary’s most well-known contribution to music, has returned to the country for a position at the the Royal Academy for Music at Budapest. Alternating his time between Budapest, Rome, and Weimer, Liszt is an important figure, and donor, to the musical arts in Hungary. His mastery of the piano and composition has inspired countless other students to pursue the musical arts.

Now, you move from one section of the city to another, between different genres of music. Leaving the melodies and the inspiring sounds of the orchestra’s strings, you enter the deep drones of the bass of electronic music so prevalent in the city. You hear stories of underground rock and roll in the 1980s, and realize that Budapest is home to a wide variety of musical cultures, and constantly evolving traditions, playing side by side in this city split in two by the Danube.

Chain Bridge when sunrise, Budapest, Hungary

Vienna

You take a walk along the streets of Vienna, the scent of delicious food wafting from stands, cafes, and restaurants. Years ago, some of the world’s most famous composers like Beethoven, Mozart, and Strauss walked along these same streets, and many called Vienna their home. “The City of Music” is true to its name: advertisements, ticket booths, concert halls, and street vendors fill the area. You continue your search for an authentic sampling of Vienna’s musical dominance.

Perhaps the most well-known staple of Vienna rises up ahead of you: the Wiener Staatsoper, or the Vienna State Opera. This magnificent building, with its impressive facades and frescoes depicting famous scenes of The Magic Flute, was built from 1861 to 1869 and has an interesting history over the course of the World Wars. The Opera House is world-renowned for its distinguished operas and connection to the Vienna Philharmonic, as the orchestra members are recruited from the State Opera. It is a source of national pride for Austrians.

Details of Viena Opera house, horizontal shot

1869: Mozart’s Don Giovanni opens the anticipated Wiener Hofoper, as it was originally called. An audience accumulates to see the glorious building and the intricate design, while energy intensifies for the first note of the opera.

An intake of breath—a moment of complete silence—the attack of the first note—

The Wiener Hofoper plunges into a whirlwind of distinguished music and sophisticated culture as the opera house climbs to a forte of international prominence.

The music pauses in 1945.

It had been happening in the years prior during the turbulent period of Nazi administration: moments when musicians lay their instruments down or singers quiet their voices for years—not seconds or minutes—of rests and when the crescendos fade to decrescendos, costumes and props collecting a fine layer of dust. Nazi rule takes a toll on the opera house, as many of its members are driven out or killed, and many works forbidden.

Then, towards the end of World War II Vienna and the opera house is bombed, leaving only the main facade, grand staircase, and Schwind Foyer standing. It is an unprecedented intermission, splitting the opera house’s legacy into two acts. Performances move to other locations in the city, but they do not do justice to the glory of the Wiener Staatsoper.

Ten years later, however, the rebuilt Wiener Staatsoper reopens, capturing the essence of the magnificent history and status of this symbol. Crowds gather as Beethoven’s Fidelio drives the Wiener Staatsoper into a brilliant new era.

 

To take your own tour through some of Eastern Europe’s best musical traditions on the Danube Express luxury train from Golden Eagle. Tours on the Venice Simplon Orient Express also make a stop in Budapest and other cities in Eastern Europe. For more information or to book your tour, contact Palace Tours at travel@palacetours.com or 609-683-5018. Follow us around social media for more updates: Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube Linkedin