(c) Stephan Trierenberg
A Passion for Life
A Passion for Life
They do not make a living from singing, but in many respects they live for singing. And when they come to rehearsals or concerts in the Musikverein building in Vienna’s Karlsplatz, they are not coming on duty, but rather leaving their duties – from offices, legal chambers, medical practices, classrooms…….What unites them is the passion for singing. What they experience is the art of adapting to change. For over 150 years the Vienna Singverein has been proof that amateurs can perform music to the highest standards. Over the years, the Choir of the Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna has consistently been ranked among the best concert choirs in the world.
Being an amateur means: being a lover. And it was music lovers in 1812, who founded the Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna. It was self-understood that they wanted to cultivate this love not only as listeners but also as practicing musicians. Antonio Salieri, most ambitiously, was engaged as choir master for this “Choir Practice Institute”.
In 1858 the Society of the Friends of Music decided to re-organize its musical life. Whereas instrumental music had long moved to the domain of the professionals, choral music was to remain the province of the amateurs – but in a new and highly efficient form. Thus, the Singverein of the Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna came into being, as a sub-branch of the Society. From the start , the newly formed choir, under the baton of the young Johann Herbeck, achieved such a high standard that it became the chosen interpreter of many important first performances. Notably, in 1867 the Singverein performed the first three movements of Brahms’ “Requiem”, and was the choir in the premiere performances of Bruckner’s “Te Deum”, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and Franz Schmidt’s “Book with Seven Seals”.
The art of adapting to change: In more than 150 years of its history, the Vienna Singverein, as an amateur choir, has managed the art of adapting to changing musical attitudes, while always remaining a top international ensemble. With Herbert von Karajan the Singverein entered the media age as a major player. In a unique four decade long partnership, the choir sang around 250 concerts in Europe, Japan and the USA under Karajan, and was his exclusive partner in audio and video recordings of oratorio performances.
With Johannes Prinz – Choir Master since 1991 - the Singverein entered the 21st century as a highly sought after, stylistically flexible choir. Today, the choir regularly performs with the most important international conductors, among them Daniel Barenboim, Bertrand de Billy, Pierre Boulez, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Mariss Jansons, Fabio Luisi, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Osawa, Georges Prêtre, Sir Simon Rattle, Franz Welser-Möst und Christian Thielemann.
In 2010, Thielemann conducted the choir, partnering the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in a new DVD production of the Beethoven Symphonies. Likewise in 2010, a live recording of Dvorak’s “Requiem” with the Concertgebouworchester Amsterdam under Mariss Jansons was released. Further internationally highly regarded recordings of the Vienna Singverein have recently included Mahler’s Second and Third Symphonies under Pierre Boulez, the recording of the Third Symphony winning a Grammy. Its Recording of Szymanowski’s “Song of the Night“ (likewise with the Vienna Philharmonic under Pierre Boulez) received the 2011 Echo Klassik.
The artistic home of the Singverein is the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein, where its many commitments make a decided impression on the concert programs. As well as that, there are regular invitations to international guest performances. Recently, it appeared at the Salzburg Festival with the Berlin Philharmonic under Franz Welser-Möst and with the Simón Bolivár Symphony Orchestra under Gustavo Dudamel. In the 2012/2013 season, the Singverein is invited to Moscow, Osaka (Japan) and to the Salzburg Whitsun Festival.
In autumn 2010 the choir under Christian Thielemann sang Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in Munich, which had been the destination of the very first choir tour, exactly a hundred years previously – to do the first performance of Mahler’s Eighth! Just one example of the history that vibrates in the over-tones of the sound of the Vienna Singverein.
Need one still ask, why singing in this choir is a passion for life?