Vienna Boys Choir: Christmas in Vienna
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 @ 7:30 pm
Tickets: Adult $45-$75, Child $30-$50 (HST included, service fees extra)
This performance is SOLD OUT.
No group of child musicians has won more renown than the incomparable Wiener Sängerknaben, (Vienna Boys Choir) founded by Emperor Maximilian I in 1498. Six centuries later, the famed Vienna Boys Choir continue to delight music-lovers across the globe with their purity of tone, distinctive charm and a diverse, crowd pleasing repertoire of timeless music with a universal popular appeal that includes Austrian folk songs and waltzes, classical masterpieces, beloved pop songs, holiday favorites and medieval chant. Gifted musicians with voices of unforgettable beauty, they carry on the illustrious tradition as the world’s preeminent boy choir.
A Vienna Boys Choir performance is never just a concert for classical aficionados; it’s an enchanting event that will delight music lovers from all walks of life. Don’t miss the chance to experience this “breathtaking” choir live and take in their “totally disciplined voices tempered by a singular sense of ease and consistency” (Washington Post). Who knows, you may just hear the next Schubert or Haydn—both among the famous choir alumni.
The History of the Vienna Boys Choir:
Boys have been singing at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor since the early 15th century. In 1498, more than half a millennium ago, Emperor Maximilian I moved his court and his court musicians to Vienna. He gave instructions that there were to be six singing boys among his musicians. Historians have settled on 1498 as the foundation date of the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle and in consequence the Vienna Boys Choir. Until 1918, the choir sang exclusively for the imperial court, at mass, at private concerts and functions, and on state occasions.
Musicians like Heinrich Isaac, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Johann Joseph Fux, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Caldara, Antonio Salieri and Anton Bruckner worked with the choir. Composers Jacobus Gallus and Franz Schubert were themselves choristers. Brothers Joseph and Michael Haydn, members of the choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and frequently sang with the imperial boys’ choir.
In 1918, after the breakdown of the Habsburg Empire, the Austrian government took over the court opera, its orchestra and the adult singers, but not the boys’ choir. The Vienna Boys Choir owes its survival to the initiative of Josef Schnitt, who became Dean of the Imperial Chapel in 1921. Schnitt established the boys’ choir as a private institution. The former court choir boys became the Wiener Sängerknaben (Vienna Boys Choir), the imperial uniform was replaced by the sailor suit, then the height of boys’ fashion. Funding was not enough to pay for the boys’ upkeep, and in 1926 the choir started to give concerts outside of the chapel, performing motets, secular works, and - at the boys’ request – children’s operas. The impact was amazing: Within a year, the choir performed in Berlin (where Erich Kleiber conducted them), Prague and Zurich. Athens and Riga (1928) followed then Spain, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden (1929), the United States (1932), Australia (1934) and South America (1936).
Today there are around 100 choristers between the ages of ten and fourteen, divided into four touring choirs. The four choirs give around 300 concerts and performances each year in front of almost half a million people. Each group spends nine to eleven weeks of the school year on tour. They visit virtually all European countries, and they are frequent guests in Asia, Australia and the Americas. The Vienna Boys Choir performs major choral and symphonic works, and regularly asked to supply soloists for large choral and orchestral works. In recent years, they have performed with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin, the Oslo Philharmonic and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The choir also takes part in opera performances at the Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Volksoper, and the Salzburg Festival. Choristers appear as three boys in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Children’s Operas are an important part of the repertoire: The boys love to act. The choir started performing operas in the 1920s, beginning with classics such as Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne, Weber’s Abu Hassan or Haydn’s Der Apotheker. Benjamin Britten wrote the vaudeville The Golden Vanity for the choir, and conducted its premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1967 in the presence of HM The Queen Elizabeth II.
The choristers, who also sing popular music, have contributed to a number of soundtracks for major motion pictures in the USA, Japan and Europe.