Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Vienna Boys’ Choir – a concert in MuTh (Photo: Lukas Beck)
In 1498, over half a millennium ago, Emperor Maximilian I relocated his court and his court music from Innsbruck to Vienna. He commanded that six boy choristers should be included among his musicians. In doing so, he laid the foundations for the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle, and subsequently for the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
Musicians including Heinrich Isaac, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Johann Joseph Fux, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Salieri and Anton Bruckner performed with the court’s Boys’ Choir. Jacobus Gallus and Franz Schubert were boy choristers themselves; as were the conductors Hans Richter, Felix Mottl and Clemens Krauss. The brothers Joseph and Michael Haydn sang in the choir as junior associates.
Today, the Vienna Boys’ Choir has around a hundred choristers aged 9 to 14, grouped into four choirs. In total, these choirs perform 300 concerts around the world every year, singing to a combined audience of almost half a million people. Each of the choirs spends between nine and eleven weeks of each school year on tour. Every year the choristers travel to the USA, to China, Japan, South Korea, as well as to various countries in Europe; and every two to three years there are concert trips to Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. Added to this are their appearances at the Wiener Staatsoper, the Volksoper and the Salzburg Festival. Over the last 90 years, the Vienna Boys’ Choir have made a thousand tours and visited over one hundred countries, singing at 27,000 concerts in the process.
The repertoire ranges from the Middle Ages to the present day. It covers classical choral music, world music, pop and film music. The choir’s own productions of children’s operas are particularly important: in 2010 Gerald Wirth’s Opera “1398 – Der Bettelknabe” (“1398 – the Beggar Boy”) had its premiere in the “ in the Wien Musikverein; more recently Raoul Gehringer’s Moby Dick was premiered in MuTh; and in the 2013/14 season the Vienna Boys ‘Choir performed “The Golden Vanity”, a piece which Benjamin Britten composed for the Choir in 1967.
Today, together with members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Wiener Staatsoper men’s choir, they still uphold an imperial tradition: regular service in the Hofburgkapelle remains one of the duties of the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
Gerald Wirth is the Artistic Director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir.