Boys have been singing at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor since the early 15th century. In 1498, more than half a millennium ago, Emperor Maximilian I moved his court and his court musicians to Vienna. He gave instructions that there were to be six singing boys among his musicians. Historians have settled on 1498 as the foundation date of the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle and in consequence the Vienna Boys Choir. Until 1918, the choir sang exclusively for the imperial court, at mass, at private concerts and functions, and on state occasions.
Musicians like Heinrich Isaac, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Johann Joseph Fux, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Caldara, Antonio Salieri and Anton Bruckner worked with the choir. Composers Jacobus Gallus and Franz Schubert were themselves choristers. Brothers Joseph and Michael Haydn, members of the choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and frequently sang with the imperial boys’ choir.
Today there are around 100 choristers between the ages of ten and fourteen, divided into four touring choirs. The four choirs give around 300 concerts and performances each year in front of almost half a million people. Each group spends nine to eleven weeks of the school year on tour. They visit virtually all European countries, and they are frequent guests in Asia, Australia and the Americas.
Together with members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera Chorus, the Vienna Boys Choir maintains the tradition of the imperial musicians: as Hofmusikkapelle they provide the music for the Sunday Mass in Vienna’s Imperial Chapel, as they have done since 1498.