History

Vienna Cathedral Music

The history of music at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna goes back as far as the liturgy has been celebrated at the church. The first documentary mention of organised in-house music is in the 1365 ‘Stiftsbrief’, the letter setting out the rights and obligations of the canons, by Duke Rudolf IV, in which, in connection with the establishment of a collegiate chapter (today’s cathedral chapter), a cantor is also mentioned who was responsible for the choirmaster, choir singers and trainees (the St. Stephen’s Boys’ Choir).

The 16th century is particularly noteworthy when it comes to the highlights in the many centuries of Viennese Cathedral Music. During this time, a lively cultural exchange between the Court Orchestra and the Cathedral Music led to the highest artistic development in both areas.

In the 18th century, there was so much demand for church music at St. Stephen’s that the numerous church services had to be supervised by two Directors of Music for almost a century, each with their own Cathedral Music. Among the prominent musicians who worked at St. Stephen’s Cathedral are Johann Joseph Fux, the brothers Michael and Joseph Haydn, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Today’s Cathedral Music is provided by the Vienna Cathedral Choir, St. Stephen’s Vocal Ensemble, St. Stephen’s Capella, the Scholae and the Vienna Cathedral Orchestra. The full-time musicians at St. Stephen’s Cathedral are the Director of Music, Markus Landerer, the cathedral organists Konstantin Reymaier and Ernst Wally, and organist Thomas Dolezal.

The primary task of Vienna Cathedral Music is to provide the music for the high mass at 10.15 a.m. every Sunday and on religious feast days. In addition, the Cathedral Music department provides the music for a large number of other services and regular cathedral concerts throughout the year. It draws from the great treasure trove of church music of all eras, from Gregorian chant to the masters that were Palestrina, Schütz, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Bruckner, to name just the most outstanding among them, up to contemporary church music.