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Anton Heiller

Anton Heiller: Organist, Composer, Conductor

Peter Planyavsky
Translated by Christa Rumsey
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 366
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  • Book Info
    Anton Heiller
    Book Description:

    Anton Heiller is one of the twentieth century's most renowned and influential organists. Born in 1923, Heiller was trained in Vienna and rose to prominence quickly, giving his first solo recital at the age of twenty-two. Before concentrating on the organ exclusively, he was a successful conductor of the symphonic repertoire, and from 1945 until his untimely death in 1979, he was professor for organ at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. His interpretations of Bach, which included registration and articulation, as well as a consideration of the theological underpinnings, would change the way Bach is played. Anton Heiller: Organist, Composer, Conductor provides an assessment of Heiller's works and teaching, while also examining his complex personality, one torn between strong religious devotion and the world of artistry. Underlying this story here is also the story of church music and organ playing in central Europe in the decades after World War II, and of the then unique crossroads of organ cultures in mid-twentieth-century Europe. Peter Planyavsky was Anton Heiller's successor as an organ professor in Vienna, and Organist of St. Stephan's Cathedral in Vienna from 1969 through 2004. He is also a prolific composer, improviser, and conductor. The book is translated from the original German by Christa Rumsey, also a former student of Heiller.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-860-2
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Note
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  6. Chapter One Very Early, Very Fast, Very Steep
    (pp. 1-32)

    When Anton Heiller dived headlong into the musical life of Vienna, he landed in several pools at once. At the age of seventeen he already had a number of appearances as an organist behind him; at age eighteen he appeared playing harpsichord and piano in concerts at the Reichsmusikhochschule, and even sang baritone solos; at nineteen he became assistant choir director with both the Vienna Singverein and also at the Vienna Volksoper; at twenty he composed his first works, which cannot just be called youthful efforts; at twenty-three he joined the teaching faculty of the Vienna Musikademie; at twenty-five he...

  7. Chapter Two Beginning in the Golden West: Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Switzerland
    (pp. 33-47)

    When we talk about the “Golden West” here, we must view this heading against the background of Austria’s occupation by the Allied Forces (1945–55). Austria was divided into four zones, as in Germany, but only one of these internal borders played a significant role, and that was the east–west border at the river Enns. This was Austria’s equivalent to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. During the fifties everyone was stopped there—pedestrians, trains, cars—and sometimes for lengthy periods, while individual and often very detailed passport inspections took place. This rift between Austria’s east and the rest of the...

  8. Chapter Three Haarlem and the Rest of Europe
    (pp. 48-71)

    After Switzerland, the Netherlands was the next country in which Heiller made important contacts and here he encountered a great array of old and new organs. Haarlem played a crucial role in his career as a wonderful meeting place for artists and ideas. After his success in winning the improvisation contest, Haarlem became the first international stage on which he could be permanently present and to which he attracted large numbers of course participants.

    It is hard to imagine today, but before 1950 organ improvisation did not play an important role in the Netherlands. This was to change profoundly within...

  9. Chapter Four Heiller and America
    (pp. 72-94)

    “Heiller will be remembered as one of the greatest organists of the twentieth century and as one of history’s most enlightened and convincing interpreters of the music of J. S. Bach.” These words appeared as part of the opening paragraph of the obituary in one of the two leading periodicals for organists in the United States,¹ and the author, himself a Heiller student (1963/64), usually chose his words with care. “Anton Heiller accepted his first American students in the mid-fifties. From that time until his death there was a constant flow of students, young and old, to his studio and...

  10. Chapter Five Short Midday, Long Sunset
    (pp. 95-126)

    On April 20, 1958, Anton Heiller applied for the Theodor Körner Prize (a cultural award named after the Austrian President Theodor Körner). In some ways, he had of course already crossed this particular cultural divide. The year before, on May 17, 1957, the Ministry of Education had approached him with an invitation to serve on the jury that selected the recipient of theStaatliche Förderungspreis für Musik(a national prize to assist outstanding young musicians). At the time Heiller, just thirty-four years old, had not so long ago himself been one of those young aspiring musical hopefuls. He politely turned...

  11. Chapter Six All the Registers of a Soul
    (pp. 127-149)

    When it comes to describing “not just the artist, but also the person,” there is nothing a biographer wants to avoid more than the common stereotype. The way the artists are all portrayed as extraordinarily sensitive, extremely modest, enraptured, altruistic, serving art and art alone, and ultimately not of this world—and yet, after all (or “on the other hand”)—how they have their feet firmly planted on the ground, are unexpectedly enterprising, only too human, vain, manipulative … the result is nearly always “a complex, multifaceted personality.”

    Well, it is no use—Anton Heillerwasan extremely complex personality,...

  12. Chapter Seven Compositions before ca. 1956
    (pp. 150-175)

    When one sets out to describe a fairly large oeuvre in its entiretyandin considerable detail, one needs the courage to establish a line where earlier compositions are concerned—a dividing line between “promising” pieces and those already accepted into the body of acknowledged works. I have decided to draw this line at about the year 1944. This does not represent an undervaluing of pieces written earlier, of which much has since appeared in print, and deservedly so. Nevertheless, one has to start somewhere. In the case of Heiller, identifying this boundary is assisted somewhat by the fact that...

  13. Chapter Eight Compositions after ca. 1956
    (pp. 176-215)

    It is always a little risky to nominate a specific year as the dividing line between one style and another and some overlap will invariably occur. The more linear style of the early masses is still present after 1956, with works like theMissa super “Salve Regina” et “Vater unser im Himmelreich,”whereas the motetHoc corpus(1951) is already a harbinger of the much later, extremely complex a capella style. Nevertheless, even for just a very noticeable change in Heiller’s organ style, 1956 seems right for a very delicate divide.

    It is sometimes quite interesting to reflect on which...

  14. Chapter Nine What He Thought, How He Played
    (pp. 216-236)

    To trace the origins of Anton Heiller, the artist, we have to begin in his adolescence. He played on the organ at the parish church in Dornbach (an incomplete organ torso) and on the old Walcker organ at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. That means, amazingly, that he played exclusively on tracker action organs right from the start—given the era, the years between the two wars, that makes him part of a minority. “What was typical for Heiller was that, right from the beginning, he based his playing on the physiology of the mechanical slider chest organ. The organists of that...

  15. Appendix: Organ Specifications
    (pp. 237-240)
  16. Chronology
    (pp. 241-258)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 259-278)
  18. List of Compositions
    (pp. 279-286)
  19. Discography
    (pp. 287-322)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 323-328)
  21. Index of Names
    (pp. 329-336)
  22. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 337-341)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 342-342)