December 10, 2018. Musical traditions abound during the holidays. In Vienna, Austria, as New Year’s approaches, waltzes, marches, and polkas of the Strauss family begin to fill the air. One might think the Vienna Philharmonic has a lock on this music, with its high-profile New Year’s Day concert broadcast around the world, an annual tradition dating back to the dark days of World War II. But when it comes to regular performances of the Strauss family’s effervescent, carefree music, the Vienna Boys Choir has the Philharmonic beat by a couple decades.
The choir has been singing Strauss since the early 1920s – yes, singing this upbeat, rhythmical, and often very fast music. Not an easy task. But the choristers, ranging in age from 9 through 14, enjoy the challenge, and their exuberance bubbles over in this delightful new recording of works by Johann Strauss, Jr. (Blue Danube Waltz, Emperor Waltz, Tritsch-Tratsch Polka), his father (Radetzky March), and brother Josef (Feuerfest Polka, For Ever Polka).
Some of the German lyrics are time-honored texts, often flowery and syrupy, written not long after the music’s original composition. Other lyrics are more recent, many newly written especially for the Choir, telling of sailors, ghosts, bandits, and even… hamsters! It’s a light-hearted approach that breathes fresh, new life into these musical bon-bons of old Vienna. And it’s one that will help you usher in the New Year on an optimistic note!
The history of the Vienna Boys Choir goes back centuries, to the year 1498, when the Holy Roman Emperor added boys’ voices to the choir of the Hofkapelle, the Imperial Chapel. The 100 choristers are divided into four touring choirs, together giving around 300 concerts each year all over the world.