Wiener Singakademie

Wiener Singakademie

Choir

• Founded 1858

Biography

The Wiener Singakademie choir of Vienna, Austria, is one of that ancient city's most durable vocal ensembles. For more than 100 years, the choir has been associated with the Vienna Konzerthaus concert hall.

The history of the Wiener Singakademie goes back to 1858 when it was founded as a Singübungsanstalt, an institution for training singers. Although the choir soon evolved into a world-class performing group, the original function implied by its name has never been absent and has, at times, been emphasized. The Wiener Singakademie has had several prestigious directors, the first of whom was Johannes Brahms in 1862; famed symphonic conductor Bruno Walter led the choir from 1911 to 1913 (when the choir began its connection to the Konzerthaus) and again from 1921 to 1922. The choir premiered works by Grieg, Anton Rubinstein, and Pietro Mascagni. Both Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss appeared as guest conductors, as did, later, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Paul Hindemith, and Karl Böhm. Significant conductors since World War II have included Agnès Grossmann, the group's first female conductor (1983-1986), who reemphasized the choir's original training function, and Heinz Ferlesch (1998-). The Singakademie has had 33 conductors, and Ferlesch's more-than-two-decade tenure is unusually long. The choir has about 60 members; it spun off a smaller Wiener Singakademie Kammerchor (Chamber Choir) in 2006. In the 21st century, the choir has worked with leading historical-performance specialists, including Ton Koopman (in Bach's St. John Passion, BWV 245) and John Eliot Gardiner. The Singakademie has also programmed contemporary works such as Giacinto Scelsi's Konx-Om-Pax (1969), which embodied aspects of the mystic syllable "om."

The Wiener Singakademie has appeared on various recordings, operatic as well as choral. Karl Böhm conducted the choir with the Wiener Philharmoniker in a classic recording of Haydn's Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons). It released several Bach recordings under early music pioneer Karl Münchinger; these were collected on CD in 2010. In 2020, the Wiener Singakademie joined the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies in a recording of Leonard Bernstein's Mass.

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