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A Gift from Old Vienna

New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
12/11/2011 -  & December 1 (State College), 2 (Freehold), 3 (Plaistow), 4 (Boston), 6 (Binghamton), 8 (Worcester), 9 (Lebanon), 10 (Hyannis), 14 (Virginia Beach), 15 (Manassas), 17 (Hartford), 18 (New York), 2011
An International Christmas: Religious and Secular Music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Antonio Vivaldi, Gabriel Fauré, Felix Mendelssohn, Ariel Ramirez, Stephen Schwarz, Christmas Carols and other music from anonymous sources

Wiener Sängerknaben, Florian Schwarz (Choirmaster)

The Vienna Boys’ Choir (© Opus 3 Artists)

The Vienna Boy's Choir has rather an astonishingly long history dating back 500 years to the court of Emperor Maximilian I. Indeed, during all of this time, the choir has sung for the Sunday Mass in the Imperial Chapel. And what collaborators they have had! Mozart and Bruckner were among many eminent musicians who worked with the choir. Joseph and Michael Haydn often sang with them, because of their membership in the choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The boys stayed close to home for many years, making their first foray outside the chapel for performances in 1926. Two years later they took their show on the road and, since then, they have brought music to delighted audiences all over the world. Approximately 100 boys make up the choir, divided into four separate traveling groups. Between them they give around 300 performances a year.

Their program was full and varied in style, time period, language and also in rhythm, harmony and dynamics. And the title said it all. This was to be “An International Christmas,” fully in keeping with both the globe trotting character of the singers and their backgrounds. One glance at the faces of the young performers revealed a veritable United Nations of song. We heard a mixture of the familiar – such as richly sung “Amazing Grace” and a majestic “O Come All Ye Faithful” – and the unfamiliar – most memorably two rhythmically vibrant and varied selections by Argentine composer, Ariel Ramirez. Broadway was represented as well, with “Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord”: from Godspell.

Sensitive piano accompaniment for some of the selections was provided by the choirmaster, Florian Schwarz. I have to say, however, that I much preferred to hear those marvelous unbroken voices raised in song on their own. The highlight of the evening was a group of Austrian carols: “O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf” --sung with beautiful luminous tone. A marvelous and unexpected addition to a Tyroliean sacred lullaby, “”Es wird scho glei dumpa” was a spirited accordion accompaniment provided by one of the boys. Particularly in these selections, their ethereally sounding voices seemed to float upward into the magnificent arched space which surrounded us. The combination of sonorities was simply magical.

The Vienna Boy's Choir will be singing at Carnegie Hall on Sunday December 18th. There may be a few seats left for what promises to be a wonderful performance.

Arlene Judith Klotzko



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