Don’t be surprised to find one of Austria’s most beautiful palaces in the country’s smallest state capital – with a concert hall whose acoustics are renowned internationally.
The origins of the building date back to the end of the fourteenth century. The castle was first pledged to Nikolaus Esterházy in 1622 and came into his possession twenty-four years later. The first major renovation and expansion took place during the second half of the seventeenth century.
Italian architects and artisans who had also worked for the Kaiser in Vienna were brought in to Eisenstadt for this purpose. At the end of the seventeenth century a large festival and ceremonial hall was built that currently bears the name “Haydn Hall” and is noted for its outstanding acoustics.
The unique paintings were carried out by Maestro Carpoforo Tencalla; the colorful ceiling frescoes portray Amor and Psyche and are still preserved today.
Together with the architect Charles Moreau, Nikolaus II (1765–1833) ushered in the transition to classicism. In keeping with the fashion of the time, the extensive palace garden was designed with waterfalls and ponds. Electricity was integrated into the palace at the turn of the century.
Starting in 1945 some departments of the regional government in Burgenland were housed in the palace; a tenancy agreement with the national government ended in 2009. Since January 1, 2010 the Esterházy Betriebe has administered the buildings.
Kapellmeister Wenzel Zivilhofer, who was active in Eisenstadt from August 20, 1714 until 1721, is regarded as the “founder” of the music theater tradition at Esterházy Palace .
Other palace Kapellmeisters in Eisenstadt included Franz Anton Payr (starting 1721), Johann Georg Thonner (1723–28), Gregor Joseph Werner (1728–1766), Joseph Haydn (becomes Vizekapellmeister in 1761, starting 1766 in charge of all musical activities).
1804 Johann Nepomuk Hummel was appointed “Concertmeister” and in charge of musical activities at Esterházy Palace, ending his tenure in 1811 after a dispute.
1811 Nikolaus II, Prince Esterházy hoped to bring Luigi Cherubini to Eisenstadt as Haydn’s successor. Cherubini composed a monumental mass for the Prince. Nikolaus II withdrew his offer, however, presumably out of cost considerations.
Alois Anton Polzelli (1812–13) and Johann Nepomuk Fuchs (until 1839) directed the limited remaining court musical activities.
1848 court musical activities come to an end at Esterházy Palace .
The Palace is currently owned by the Esterházy Private Foundation and administered by the Esterházy Betriebe.
Maestro Adam Fischer initiated the International Haydn Festival at Esterházy Palace in 1987. He also founded the Austrian-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic, with its seat at the Palace until 2016.
The “Sala terrena,” built in the second half of the seventeenth century, was revitalized in 2010 and is now available for various special exhibitions dedicated to the Palace’s musical past.
Since 2017 a new music festival organized by the Esterházy Betriebe has taken place that presents both Haydn’s music and crossover offerings under the title “Autumn Gold.”
Did you know?
The Haydn Hall has a capacity of 610 people that can be expanded, with the gallery, to include 48 additional seats.
The small Empire Hall is used primarily for chamber music concerts and provides space for 156 people.
The Ticino-born fresco painter Capoforo was also involved with the Dominican Church in Vienna and was responsible for all of the ceiling frescoes at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Passau.
In the small palace chapel, there is an organ on which Joseph Haydn himself played.
In 2015 there were a total of 193,000 visitors, making the palace an important economic factor for the state capital of Burgenland.
Every July since 2016, pop and jazz concerts have taken place in the palace garden featuring such internationally-renowned artists as Zucchero, Status Quo, Jimmy Cliff, Deep Purple, and Gregory Porter.
Esterházy Palace is one of the main stages for the worldwide activities of the Pink Ribbon anti-breast cancer campaign; to mark the occasion, the Palace is illuminated in pink once every year.