Vienna Choirboys

   / Wiener Sängerknaben
   Known throughout the world today for the purity of their voices and precision of their singing, the Vienna ensemble also exemplifies the institutional impact of the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918. The dynasty’s rulers had sought out young voices for their liturgical choirs and occasional secular entertainments since the Renaissance; the choir was singing in the chapel of the imperial Hofburg in 1498. With no emperor to support them at the close of World War I, however, the group faced dissolution.
   Josef Schnitt, the singers’ spiritual mentor, was a man of some private means. He personally underwrote the group, which reappeared in the Hofburg in 1924; local concerts followed. A year later the ensemble became the “Vienna Choirboys.” By 1926, Schnitt’s funds were running low; to make up the difference the boys sang on the Austrian radio and in small-scale Mozart and Haydn operas. Trips abroad followed and continue to this day. The ensemble has a permanent home in the Augarten Palace in Vienna’s Second District, the Leopoldstadt. The total number of choristers is now roughly 100, with four companies ready to travel. Their repertory now includes both spiritual and secular works.
   See also Communications; Music.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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