Dresden Kapellknaben

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Dresden Kapellknaben
Seat: Dresden / Germany
Carrier: Diocese of Dresden-Meißen
Founding: 1548/1709
Genus: Boys' choir
Founder: Moritz of Saxony
Head : Matthias Liebich
Voices : 100 ( SATB )
Website : www.kapellknaben.de

The Dresdner Kapellknaben are a boys' choir . The focus of the work of the Kapellknaben is the weekly musical performance of the high mass in the Catholic Court Church , the cathedral of the Dresden-Meißen diocese .


16./17. century

The roots of the choir go back to 1548. At that time, Elector Moritz von Sachsen issued a “Cantoreiordnung” and thus set up a court choir for the court service. From this later the court orchestra (today Saxon State Orchestra ) and the Kapellknaben emerged.

Johann Walter , the "Protestant Urkantor", was entrusted with the establishment and management of the Electoral Court Orchestra . He was followed by Mattheus Le Maistre , who around 1555 had 18 singers from alto to bass and 13 band boys as well as 3 organists and 1 bellower. At that time the choir consisted exclusively of male singers, since women in the church had to “keep silent” (cf. 1 Cor 14:34 ).

When Heinrich Schütz became electoral court conductor in 1615 , the court orchestra was regarded as the leading German ensemble. Schütz, who remained Kapellmeister until his death in 1672, also helped the court orchestra to gain European renown.

18./19. century

The year 1697 represents a turning point in the history of the court orchestra: The Saxon Elector Friedrich August ( Augustus the Strong ) converted to the Catholic faith in order to become King of Poland; Saxony, on the other hand, remained Protestant. August's court in Dresden thus included both Catholics and Protestants, who each claimed court services in their denomination . As a result, a reorganization of the court orchestra, i. H. a division into a Protestant (cf. Evangelical Kapellknaben ) and a Catholic group is necessary.

Boys' choirs were recruited for the Catholic court service in Bohemia, and they became the origin of the Catholic chapel boys. Thus in 1709 the Dresden Kapellknaben emerged as an independent institution. The chapel boys moved into an institute run by Jesuits; the first instructor at this institute was Jan Dismas Zelenka , who came to the Dresden court as a double bass player from Bohemia in 1710 and was increasingly given responsibility for church music.

The Hofkapellknaben, which until well into the 20th century actually consisted only of boys' voices, were only able to perform polyphonic works to a very limited extent. Her usual service in court worship therefore essentially consisted of Gregorian chant ; Nevertheless, in addition to the singers and orchestra of the court orchestra, they also took part in performances of major church music. Until well into the 19th century, only works were performed that had been composed for the Dresden court, including those by Johann Adolf Hasse , Johann Gottlieb Naumann and Carl Maria von Weber . It was only after 1880 that works by other masters such as Mozart , Haydn and Beethoven were included in the repertoire thanks to the efforts of the conductor Franz Wüllner .

20th century

When the Saxon King abdicated in 1918, the Hofkapellknaben became the "Dresdner Kapellknaben" and the court orchestra became the Staatskapelle. The traditional church music maintenance at the Hofkirche could be continued, however, as the Kapellmeister Karl Maria Pembaur succeeded in engaging the Staatskapelle as well as soloists and choristers of the State Opera for church music services. This collaboration lasted until 1937; then it was banned by the National Socialists . Joseph Wagner , who also initiated the new beginning after the end of the Second World War, took over the management of the Kapellknaben .

Another turning point occurred in 1956 when the Kapellknaben were able to move into the rebuilt Vincentiusstift. The boarding school offered space for 50 boys, so that for the first time the choir could also be expanded to include male voices. The focus of the work continued to be the service in the court church, but now with a stronger emphasis on polyphonic choral literature. The tradition of performing church music together with the Staatskapelle and the opera soloists was also resumed.

Under the direction of Konrad Wagner , the choir established itself, despite adverse conditions in the GDR, to become an ensemble that is well known beyond the borders of Dresden and Saxony. Since 1961 concert tours have also been undertaken regularly, mainly within the GDR, but also to Austria, Italy, West Germany and France. The undisputed highlight is the 1982 trip to Rome with a visit to Pope John Paul II.

After the travel restrictions fell in 1990, the Kapellknaben made guest appearances throughout Germany, but also in many other European countries. In 1995 the choir traveled to the USA for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations . Then in March 2006 the boys visited Cuba. In 2008 they were able to visit Rome again and had the opportunity to attend the opening of the Pauline Year of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI on June 28th . to participate. In 2009 they sang in Mallorca. In 2010 the Kapellknaben performed in Switzerland. On September 24, 2011, the Catholic boys' choir took part in the 2011 Pope Benedict XVI 's visit to Germany . celebrated the celebration of Holy Mass on the Erfurt Cathedral Square . The summer concert tour 2012 leads to Rome and Manoppello as well as to other important church sites in central Italy. The chapel boys are accompanied on this pilgrimage tour by the bishop emeritus of the Dresden-Meißen diocese, Joachim Reinelt .

Despite the concert tours, the now more than 90 singers focus on service in the cathedral. The Kapellknaben have been led by church music director Matthias Liebich since 1997 , who was a Kapellknabe himself as a youth.

In December 2014 the Dresden Kapellknaben were included in the register of intangible cultural heritage in Germany as one of three Saxon boy choirs .

Services and appearances, repertoire

The Dresden Kapellknaben in the Saxon State Parliament 2013

The main focus of the Dresdner Kapellknaben is singing in church services. Apart from vacation times, they perform their musical service on almost all Sundays and Catholic high festivals in the high mass in the Catholic Court Church in Dresden. Occasionally, the choir boys also sing in church services in other churches and parishes of the diocese, for example on special anniversaries and parish celebrations.

The repertoire in the church services includes Gregorian chant and liturgical elements (such as answering calls) as well as motets and masses from Renaissance to modern times, usually a cappella or with organ accompaniment.

Several times a year church services with works for choir and orchestra are organized in the court church, in which the chapel boys participate. Masses are played on New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday and Christmas Day, a requiem on All Souls' Day and a Te Deum at the end of the year . The repertoire focuses on the great Catholic composers (e.g. Mozart , Haydn ) and composers associated with the Hofkirche (e.g. Hasse , Weber ).

In addition to the liturgical service, the Dresden Kapellknaben also perform in concerts: every summer they go on a one-week concert tour at home or abroad; in addition, several short trips per year, mostly within the diocese. Last but not least, the Kapellknaben also appear in Dresden in concerts or at events.

The repertoire of the concerts essentially comprises sacred a cappella choral music from Renaissance to modern times. Occasionally and depending on the type of event, secular works are also presented.

Occasionally, the Kapellknaben or some of their singers have participated in performances by other musical institutions in Dresden. In the meantime, the tradition of including chapellas as soloists in performances at the Semperoper is revived. We should also remember appearances in performances of Bach's St. Matthew Passion by the Dresden Kreuzchor and Britten's War Requiem with the Dresden Philharmonic under Herbert Kegel .

Well-known Kapellmeister and choirmaster

In the course of history, numerous well-known composers and artists were closely associated with the Dresden Kapellknaben:

Well-known former band boys


  • Jens Daniel Schubert / Jörg Leopold (eds.): From one root: 300-year history of the Dresden Kapellknaben and the St. Benno-Gymnasium Dresden . St. Benno-Verlag, Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-7462-2765-8
  • Johannes König: Gregorian chant and grenades. Youth memories of a Dresden chapel boy. Hille Verlag, Dresden 2001, ISBN 3-932858-39-5

Web links

Commons : Dresdner Kapellknaben  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. [1]
  2. Press release of the Standing Conference