He helped shape and guide the areas of choir and ensemble conducting at the mdw for years, and his insider’s knowledge of the Austrian choral landscape was virtually unparalleled. Whether as a conductor, vocal coach, choir director, recording producer, composer, book author, jury member, or passionate educator, everything he did was always of up-to-the-minute relevance and of a radiance that was universally appreciated, shining far beyond the mdw and Austria:

Herwig Reiter—a musical universe unto himself—celebrated his 80th birthday in late June of this year.

It was in 1975 that he began teaching at the mdw, where he founded ensembles including the Chamber Choir (today’s Webern Kammerchor). He became a professor of conducting in 1985, as which he taught at the mdw’s Anton Bruckner Department of Choral and Ensemble Directing and Music Theory in Music Education until 2002.

Herwig Reiter and his wife Elisabeth outside the newly renamed studio © Johannes Herrnegger

A circle of former students and colleagues as well as vocal and instrumental ensembles from the Department came together to congratulate him in early June as part of a celebration in the Joseph Haydn Hall with music by the celebrant himself, whose musical “worldview” is best expressed by those artistic principles that he himself formulated several years ago:

… on the relationship between music and society:

“I cherish a polyphony that allows opposites to exist alongside one another. Viewed politically, such a music portrays a society that is so free that it tolerates and nurtures those aspects of every single individual that are subjectively ‘other’.”

… on contemporary music in general:

“I view the special mission of our times as being that of using our compositional possibilities and freedoms in all manner of ways in order to win over the greatest possible number of people to the best possible (which is to say: the most fascinating, expressive, lively, and humane) music, doing so in the spirit and interest of democracy.”

At Reiter’s celebration, Rector Ulrike Sych expressed our institution’s esteem for him by formally renaming Room DEG 63 at Anton-von-Webern-Platz as the “Herwig Reiter Studio”—to the visible delight of the celebrant and his wife Elisabeth.

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