The Wiener Hofmusikkapelle / Vienna Court Music Ensemble is one of the oldest institutions of its kind worldwide. Already under the reign of Friedrich III. (1415–1493) a church choir was established. On July 7, 1498, his successor, Maximilian I. (1459–1519), ordered the appointment of a conductor, two bass singers and six choir boys. This date is officially regarded as the ensemble’s hour of birth. Under the reign of Ferdinand I. (1503–1564) the majority of the ensemble was recruited from a region belonging to Belgium today, while under Ferdinand II. (1578–1637) Italian musicians were predominant. The Vienna Court Music Ensemble experienced its zenith under the rule of the composing emperors Ferdinand III. (1608–1657), Leopold I. (1640–1705), Joseph I. (1678–1711) and Karl VI. (1685–1740). Maria Theresia (1717–1780) and Joseph II. (1741–1790) reduced the ensemble’s performances to sacral music. Beethoven’s mentor Antonio Salieri was the last court conductor of Italian style. In the 19th century, the ensemble’s most famous members were Franz Schubert, who sang in the boys choir, Anton Bruckner, who was organist at court between 1878 and 1892, and the conductor Hans Richter, who was also musical director of the ensemble between 1893 and 1900. After the end of World War I, the ensemble was integrated into the Ministry of Education. From 2014 until 2020 it was part of the Austrian Federal Chancellery, since 2020 it has become a department of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport. Many outstanding conductors contributed to the ensemble’s growing popularity in the last century such as Franz Schalk, Clemens Krauss, Josef Krips, Ferdinand Grossmann, Hans Gillesberger, Uwe Christian Harrer, Helmuth Froschauer and Erwin Ortner. Riccardo Muti and Martin Haselböck, among others, were appointed honorary members of the Vienna Court Music Ensemble as a result of their many years of collaboration.
The Vienna Court Music Ensemble consists of the Vienna Boys Choir, which developed out of the original chapel choir, members of the Vienna State Opera men’s choir and members of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra (most of which are also members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra). The ensemble’s repertoire covers sacred music from the Renaissance until today and focuses especially on the famous masses of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner. The changing parts of the Holy Mass are sung in plainchant by the Schola of the Vienna Court Music Ensemble, a group of former members of the Vienna Boys Choir. The ensemble’s conductors and organists are all internationally renowned musicians and sought-after lecturers at national and international universities.