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    Vienna Boys’ Choir

    This choir of altos and trebles was established by Maximilian I on 7th July 1498.  Its founding coincided with the relocation of his court to Vienna from Innsbruck.  At first, there were only six boys in the choir, and two bass singers fleshed out the ensemble’s sound.  Eventually, its numbers grew to twelve, then fourteen, and then twenty.  The choir’s role was to provide music in the church mass.  As a perquisite, the boys received a musical education, and many of them became professional musicians as adults. 

     

    One of those boys was Franz Schubert, who penned his early works while still a member of the choir, although he allowed the rest of his studies to slide, which did not go over well with his teachers.  Other famous musicians who collaborated with the choir include Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Anton Bruckner, Franz Joseph Haydn, Michael Haydn, Herbert von Karajan, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Seiji Ozawa, Antonio Salieri, and Sir George Solti. 

     

    In 1918, the Habsburg Empire crumbled and the court’s adult singers, opera and orchestra were taken over by the Austrian government.  This did not include the choir boys, however.  Josef Schnitt, a rector and Dean of the Imperial Chapel, ensured their continuation as a vocal ensemble by dubbing them Wiener Sangerknaben, or Vienna Boys Choir, and turning them into a private, professional enterprise. 

     

    In addition to performing in church, they expanded their audience by appearing in concert halls throughout the world.  Their repertoire ranged from children’s operas to motets to secular songs.  Some of the operas they performed in the 1920s include Franz Joseph Haydn’s Der Apotheker, Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne, und Carl Maria van Weber’s Abu Hassan.  They became an international sensation, conquering Athens and Riga in 1928, Denmark, France, Norway, Spain and Sweden in 1929, the United States in 1932, Australia in 1934, and South America in 1936. 

     

    They expanded into the film, radio, recording and television industries.  One of their early recordings was 1960’s Frohe Weihnacht.  They appeared in the Walt Disney feature film, Almost Angels, in 1962.  In 1967, they issued Die Wiener Sangerknaben und ihre Schonsten  They performed music for the 1968 TV special, The Little Drummer Boy.  In the ‘70s, they covered the Fab Four in a series of a cappella arrangements of famous Beatles songs. 

     

    Secular laws caught them out in 1978, when it was decreed that performing on Christmas Eve and other holidays was a violation of child labor laws.  It didn’t keep them from recording on non-holidays, however.  They released a spate of albums in the ‘80s and ‘90s, such as Christmas in Vienna/Heiligste Nacht, Christmas with the Vienna Boy’s Choir, London Symphony Orchestra, Merry Christmas from the Vienna Choir Boys,  Orff:  Carmina Burana, und Weihnacht mit den Wiener Sangerknaben. 

     

    In 2001, Gerald Wirth was hired as Artistic Director, and he managed to keep them in the public eye by recording pop songs by Celine Dion, Madonna, and Robbie Williams, releasing I Am from Austria, Wiener Sangenknaben Goes Christmas and Wiener Sangerknaben Goes Pop, performing the children’s operas, Marchen-Matrix and Moby Dick, and featuring them in their own documentary film, Silk Road. 

     

    Franz Schlosser took over as music director in 2008.  The Vienna Boys’ Choir released the CD, I Am Not a Humanbeing, in 2010.

     

    Placido Domingo recordings

    Adeste Fidelis (Frederick Oakeley/John Francis Wade)

    RCA Red Seal 53835 (CD: Placido Domingo & The Vienna Boys Choir)

    ConductorHelmuth Froschauer 

    EnsemblesVienna Boys’ Choir/Vienna Symphony Orchestra

     

    Sources:

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vienna_Boys%27_Choir
    2. http://www.singers.com/choral/viennaboys.html
    3. http://www.opus3artists.com/artists/vienna-boys-choir
    4. http://www.google.com

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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