500 Years Vienna Choir Boys
AUFBAU 64:24 November 20, 1998 p. 13
[original title: Vienna Choir Boys at Tilles Center, C.W. Post/Long Island University]
by Helene Williams [with Leonard Lehrman]
Copyright by Helene Williams, Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU
In their recent New York appearances, as part of their 500th Anniversary Season, the Vienna Choir boys presented a rather serious program, joined by the Chorus Viennensis, the mens choir made up entirely of former members of the boy choir, and a chamber orchestra. The combined forces were ably conducted by Canadian Agnes Grossmann, the daughter of Ferdinand Grossmann, who served as Artistic Director of the group during two different periods for a total of more than twenty years, until his death in 1970.
The works sung all had been created by composers who were historically related to the Choir. Two Te Deums (Franz Joseph Haydns in C major, Hob.XXIII c:1, and Antonio Salieris in honor of the Coronation of Leopold II) began and ended the first half. In between came the Motet "Virgo Prudentissima" by Flemish composer Heinrich Isaak (1450-1517), who had been chosen in 1498 by Maximillian I as his first Kapellmeister. Also notable were three motets for mens chorus by Anton Bruckner. These short religious works of Bruckner are a sharp contrast to his gargantuan symphonic and choral works. Indeed, the style of his motet Locus Iste lies close to Mozart, and there seemed to be a direct musical quote from the mens chorus "O Isis und Osiris! Welche Wonne!" from Die Zauberfloete.
Franz Schubert was represented by settings of Psalm 23 (D.706) and Goethe's "Gesang der Geister ueber den Wassern" (D.714). The Psalm was sung by the boys alone with impeccable intonation and phrasing. In the Goethe text could be heard echoes of "Adam Ma-Odom," a Hebrew liturgical text on the origin and end of mankind.
In the major work on the program, Mozarts Mass in C major, K.317 (Coronation), the beautiful choral singing was enhanced by the solo quartet, and especially the soaring high notes of boy soprano soloist Terence Wey, who sang his part from memory. The Vienna Choir Boys Quincentenary has been marked with a series of celebratory concerts, activities and tours in Vienna, the United States and around the world. The gala performances began with the "official" 500th birthday concert which featured Haydns oratorio "The Seasons" at Viennas famed Musikverein last March 29th.
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