A foundation charter issued by Maximilian I in 1498 called the first dozen boys to the imperial court as members of the newly formed court music band. Thus he showed his great interest in contemporary musical developments in Burgundy and the Netherlands.
Since then the Vienna Boys' Choir has been a fixed attraction in Austrian musical life. A number of famous musicians have emerged from its ranks. Its first-class training has produced numerous highly qualified vocalists, violinists and pianists.
Joseph Haydn, who actually belonged to the Cathedral Choir of St. Stephan, sang together with the court choir boys in the chapel of the Hofburg and in the newly built palace of Schönbrunn.
Franz Schubert's first compositions were written when he was with the court choir boys, always in conflict with his teachers, since he was more interested in music than in getting good marks for his school work. Mozart's erstwhile rival, Salieri, noted Schubert's talent in his entry examination, and took him under his wing. The vocal training he received formed the foundation of Schubert's sensitive Lieder.
Georg Boyer, Benedikt Randhartinger, Hans Richter, who created the reputation of the philharmonic concerts in Vienna, the operetta composer Karl Zeller ("Der Vogelhändler") or the famous Wagner conductor Josef Sucher, Felix Mottl, Clemens Krauss and Lovro von Matacic are former members of the Vienna Boys' Choir, and helped to write the musical history of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Great composers and teachers have repeatedly improved the musical quality of the Vienna Boys' Choir, for instance Isaac, Senfl, Caldara, Fux, Salieri, Joseph and Michael Haydn. Anton Bruckner, too, as court organist, rehearsed his own masses with the Vienna Boys' Choir. If a performance went particularly well, it was his custom to reward the boys with cake.
With the ending of the monarchy in 1918, the choir gave up its old name and the imperial uniform (to which a sword belonged). As early as 1924 the "Vienna Boys' Choir" - reformed by the rector Joseph Schnitt, with great personal zeal - gave guest performances in the world's most famous concert halls. Even in the days of the First Republic they were regarded as Austria's "singing ambassadors".
Since those days the Vienna Boys' Choir have given concerts under nearly all the great conductors of this century: Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Herbert von Karajan, Carlos Kleiber, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Muti and Sir George Solti.
And, as ever, every Sunday the Vienna Boys' Choir sing solemn mass in Vienna's Hofburg chapel, continuing a tradition unbroken since 1498.
The Vienna Boy's Choir