When Peter Planyavsky began his career, Victorian music, choral as well as organ, was virtually unknown in Austria; it was certainly not standard fare. In the ensuing decades, Planyavsky has been Austria's most energetic promoter of this repertoire. I asked him a few questions on the topic:
LC: Before you came on the scene, how much Victorian music, if any, was being sung and played in Austria?
PP: Most of the Victorian music was practically non existent here - Stanford's Beati quorum via was known and performed but nothing else. Now it's done a bit here and a bit there.
LC: How do the Austrians feel about this “exotic” music?
PP: People generally like it; harmonically, it is not so different from our own little things from the same period. The main difference is the use of the organ. But in Austria, there were no Swell divisions of the kind you need – and even if there were, the average organ would not have pistons. It was actually near to impossible to perform these things in Austria before the nineties!
LC: What sparked your interest in this repertoire?
PP: I have been in the UK a couple of times, plus Australia plus Canada, so I've heard quite a lot of it. But the actual "spark" was triggered in 1993. Then I started collecting CDs and introduced the music to St. Stephen's Cathedral. [At one time Planyavsky has the unusual dual responsbility at the Stephansdom of Organist and Music Director – traditionally two separate jobs in Austria.]
LC: Is there a particular concert of Victorian repertoire in Vienna that comes to your mind as being particularly memorable?
PP: One of the big events around the organ dedication in the Musikverein in Vienna was a choral-and-organ-concert where we did [Stainer's] I saw the Lord, plus [Britten's] Rejoice in the Lamb. [This took place on May 16, 2011, in the Großer Saal of the Musikverein.]
LC: What about elsewhere in Austria?
PP: I led a choral week in Salzburg in 2004 concentrating on the repertoire, with a big service in the Cathedral – which houses an 60-stop Metzler. All tracker, two assistants, and a lot of sweat and blood...
Peter Planyavsky plays a free organ recital at Kresge Auditorium, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on Friday, January 27 at 8 p.m.