Verena Holzheu calls the tune
Winter Semester 2013/14 sees a new music director at the head of the University Choir (UniversitätsChor München). In a demanding selection procedure, Verena Holzheu made the best impression on the search committee, and was chosen to succeed Johannes Kleinjung. Kleinjung led the Choir for the past 10 years, and has moved to Weimar to take charge of music in the Herderkirche there.
Verena Holzheu is the first woman to be appointed to the post of choirmaster of the UniversitätsChor München. Founded by Wilhelm Gebhardt, the Munich University Choir began life as the Collegium Musicum Vocale with a roster of 45 singers in 1950. In 1969 Hans Rudolf Zöbeley became the Choir’s music director, a position which he retained for more than 30 years. During this period, the Choir grew to reach its present strength of 200. Its repertoire also expanded to take in works less often heard on the concert podium. In recognition of his contributions to musical life at LMU, Zöbeley was named University Music Director and an Honorary Fellow of LMU. Building on Zöbeley’s legacy, his successor Johannes Kleinjung continued to develop the choir’s capabilities, laying particular emphasis on works by contemporary composers.
Among the highlights of the choir’s programs in recent years, renditions of works by Michael Tippett and Frank Martin deserve mention, together with a performance of Carl Orff‘s Carmina burana, and a concert featuring the original film scores for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, conducted by Ludwig Wicki, both of which took place in the Philharmonie am Gasteig.
The new conductor’s aims and projects
Verena Holzheu studied at the Munich School of Music and Drama, intending to become a high-school music teacher, but went on to focus on choral conducting. Having qualified as a music teacher and graduated with a Diplom in Choral Conducting, she was accepted as a member of Professor Michael Gläser’s master class in 2009. She also gained practical experience as a choirmaster by conducting various choirs in Munich, as well as by attending master classes.
She defines her primary aims as “working to further stimulate interest in classical music among young people, and maintaining the level of quality and versatility of the University Choir by programming polyphonic and polychoral a cappella pieces more often”.
The Choir’s next concert project is a joint concert with the Choir of the Catholic University of Cracow, to be held in the Great Aula at LMU on 19. December. The program will include works by contemporary Polish composers, as well as carols appropriate for the season of Advent. The other big event will be the usual end-of-term semester concert on 26. and 27. January 2014, which, however, takes place in an unusual context. Under the motto “Klangsphären”, the concert, featuring works for mixed choir a cappella, will form part of the ceremonies accompanying the official re-opening of the newly renovated Atrium in LMU’s Main Building.