Vienna Boys' Choir

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Vienna Boys' Choir
Wiener Sängerknaben
Wiener Saengerknaben.jpg
Performing at the Musikverein in Vienna, 2003
Also known asVienna Choir Boys
OriginVienna, Austria
Founded1924; 97 years ago (1924)
Music directorGerald Wirth
HeadquartersPalais Augarten
Vienna, Austria

The Vienna Boys' Choir (German: Wiener Sängerknaben) is a choir of boy sopranos and altos based in Vienna, Austria. It is one of the best known boys' choirs in the world. The boys are selected mainly from Austria, but also from many other countries.

The choir is a private, non-profit organization. There are approximately 100 choristers between the ages of nine and fourteen. The boys are divided into four touring choirs, named after Austrian composers Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert, which combined perform about 300 concerts each year before almost 500,000 people. Each group tours for about nine to eleven weeks.[1] Some pieces include "Good Morning" and "Merry Christmas from Vienna Boys".

Early history[edit]

The Vienna Boys' Choir in 1970
Palais Augarten has served since 1948 as a boarding school for the choir

The choir is the modern-day descendant of the boys' choirs of the Viennese Court, dating back to the late Middle Ages. The Wiener Hofmusikkapelle was established by a letter from Emperor Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire on 30 June 1498, instructing court officials to employ a singing master, two basses and six boys. Jurij Slatkonja became the director of the ensemble. The role of the choir (numbering between 24 and 26) was to provide musical accompaniment for the church mass. Additionally, the Haydn brothers were members of the St. Stephen's Cathedral choir, directed at the time by Georg Reutter II, who used this choir in his duties for the imperial court, which at the time had no boy choristers of its own.

Over the centuries, the choir has worked with many composers, including Heinrich Isaac, Hofhaimer, Biber, Fux, Caldara, Gluck, Salieri, Mozart, Franz Schubert and Bruckner.[1]

In 1920, following the fall of the Austrian Empire, the Hofkapelle (court orchestra) was disbanded. However, the rector at the time, Josef Schnitt, sought a continuation of the tradition. In 1924, the Vienna Boys' Choir was officially founded, and it has evolved into a professional music group. The choir adopted the now-famous blue-and-white sailor suit, replacing the imperial military cadet uniform that included a dagger.[2] The composer HK Gruber is one of the graduates of the reformed choir.[3]

Since 1948, Palais Augarten has served as the rehearsal venue and boarding school, which goes from kindergarten level up to middle school level.

In 1961, Walt Disney filmed Almost Angels, a fictional drama about (and starring) the Vienna Boys' Choir, set and filmed in the Palais Augarten. It was Disney who, for cinematographic reasons, persuaded the Austrian government to allow the boys to legally wear the Austrian national emblem on the breast of their uniform, a tradition that continues to this day.

Recent history[edit]

G. Mahler, Symphony of a Thousand – Vienna Boys' Choir – Wiener Singverein – Slovenský filharmonický zbor – Staatskapelle BerlinPierre BoulezWiener Musikverein (April 2009)

Gerald Wirth became the choir's artistic director in 2001. However, since then, the choir has come under pressure to modernize and has faced criticism of their musical standards, leading to a split with the Vienna State Opera. The choir has for the first time had to advertise for recruits after a rival choir school was established by Ioan Holender, director of the opera company. He complained of both falling standards and poor communication with the choir. He said that the State Opera sometimes trained boys for particular stage roles, only to find out on the day of performance that they were unavailable as they had gone on tour with the choir. Some boys were attracted to the rival choir school by the prospect of a more relaxed atmosphere and of performance fees being paid directly to them.[4]

The Vienna Boys' Choir has sought to update its image, recording pop music selections and adopting an alternative uniform to the sailor suits used since the 1920s, allowing the boys to dance as they sing.[5] After Eugen Jesser died in May 2008, Walter Nettig became the choir's president. Gerald Wirth has been the artistic director since 2001, and he also became the choir's president in 2013.[1]

In 2010, following sexual abuse allegations from two former choristers stemming from the late 1960s and early 1980s, the Vienna Boys' Choir opened a confidential phone and e-mail hotline to allow others to come forward. Eight possible victims came forward saying they were abused, either by staff or other choir members.[6]

Selected discography[edit]


  • Frohe Weihnachten (2015)
  • Wiener Sängerknaben Goes Christmas (2003)
  • Frohe Weihnacht (Merry Christmas) (1999)
  • Christmas in Vienna / Heiligste Nacht (1990)
  • Merry Christmas from the Vienna Choir Boys (1982)
  • Christmas with the Vienna Choir Boys (with Hermann Prey)
  • Christmas with the Vienna Boys' Choir, London Symphony Orchestra (1990)
  • Weihnacht mit den Wiener Sängerknaben (Hans Gillesberger 1980)
  • The Little Drummer Boy (TV 1968)
  • Die Wiener Sängerknaben und ihre Schönsten ... (1967)
  • Frohe Weihnacht (1960)
  • Christmas Angels (RCA Gold Seal)
  • Silent Night

Pop music[edit]

  • I Am from Austria (2006)
  • Wiener Sängerknaben Goes Pop (2002)

Other recordings[edit]

The Vienna Boys' Choir performed the song "The Little Drummer Boy" in the Rankin/Bass TV special of the same name.

Feature Films[edit]

Featured composers[edit]

Smaller works based on anthologies[edit]

TV Series[edit]

Vooz began airing the animated series Vienna Boys, that aired on Cartoon Network's Cartoonito in United States, Super RTL's Toggolino in Germany and Educational Broadcasting System in South Korea.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c History from the Official web-site of the Choir Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Loof, Susanna (2002-12-08). "Busy, intense life in the choir is a whole lot of fun, students say". The Register-Guard.
  3. ^ Norris, Geoffrey (2009-02-11). "HK Gruber: a composer who refuses to be bound by rules". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2009-02-13.
  4. ^ Chapman, Clare (2003-03-02). "The Vienna Boys' Choir seeks new recruits for the first time". The Daily Telegraph.
  5. ^ Leidig, Michael (2004-07-04). "Chorus of disapproval as Vienna Boys' Choir dons 'Star Trek' suits". The Sunday Telegraph.
  6. ^ Homola, Victor (2010-03-17). "Austria: Choir Faces Abuse Allegations". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Doraemon Movie Theme Song Collection Animation CD Album". CDJapan. Retrieved 2018-01-03.

External links[edit]