Vienna Boys Choir ‘Jubilate Deo’ – classics amidst innovation and the traditional

The Vienna Boys Choir CD Jubilate Deo was released by ABC Classics (476 5094) earlier this year to coincide with the choir’s tour to Australia. This would explain the Antipodean content amongst the 17 tracks on the hour long collection of old and new choral classics, many of which sound best when peformed by the lucent voices of boy trebles and altos. Amongst these, JS Bach’s Bereite dich, Zion from The Christmas Oratorio, Eybler’s Omnes de Saba venient, Schubert’s Psalm 23 and Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu.

Conducted by Manolo Cagnin with Artistic Director Gerald Wirth at the piano, the opening work sets the tone for this specialist repertoire with a Jubilate Deo composed for the choir in 1976 by Heinz Kratochwil (1933-1995) a professor at the University of Music in Vienna. The joyous and jazzy harmonies reflect the title of the CD along with the composer’s aesthetics of modes, polyphony and Impressionism.

The choir returns to early repertoire with the Tenebrae factae sunt by Victoria and Gaudete!,  an anonymous Finnish work. Dutifully, there is the inclusion of Austro-German elements from Mozart (Laudate Dominum, Sub tuum praesidium), Schumann, a traditional song from the Carinthian Möll Valley, and the Tritsch Tratsch Polka by  J Strauss ll.

Of novel interest is the choir’s foray into more recent works like Land of Sweeping Plains, composed for this tour by Elena Kats-Chernin to the words of the poem of Dorothea Mackellar. The choir performed the world premiere of the song on tour in Brisbane in September 2012. In the accompanying notes, Kats- Chernin draws parallels between the centuries old history combined with the youthful spirit of both the Vienna Boys Choir and the Australian nation. The keys of F and G major dominate the song, representing for the composer, ‘sunny’ keys of jubilation.

There is an exploration of the Javanese gamelan orchestra in Gamelan by Canadian composer Raymond Murray Schafer, in which the voices emulate the complex rhythms and sounds of this instrumental ensemble; and there is Artistic Director Gerald Wirth’s dedication to the choir, simply called The Choir  – a thoughtful but entertaining outline in percussion and voice of the process of making choral music.

Completing this trans-continental venture are two arrangements of Antipodean traditional songs – Po atarau  (Scott arr Wirth) which has become a Maori ballad, and Waltzing Matilda (Barr/MacPherson/Cowan).

Lovers of choral music and especially those who are moved by the sound of a boys choir would be well pleased with the choice of repertoire on this CD and the expert performance and music direction.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

Jubilate Deo is available on line at and at ABC shops.



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