Obituary: Austrian Chorus Director Norbert Balatsch Dies, Aged 92

By Logan Martell

On May 6, 2020, Austrian choir director Norbert Balatsch passed away.

Born in Vienna on March 10, 1928, Balatsch joined the Wiener Sangerknaben boys’ choir at the age of ten, and became a baritone with the Vienna State Opera in 1952. While serving as choral conductor of a Viennese mens’ choir, the Wiener Mannergesang-Verein, Balatsch gradually made his way up the ranks to become chorus director of the Vienna State Opera as well; he held this position from 1968 to 1983.

From 1972 to 1999, Balatsch was choirmaster at the Bayreuth Festival, and during his time worked with conductors such as Horst Stein, Eugen Jochum, Silvio Varviso, Karl Bohm, Sir Colin Davis, Daniel Barenboim, and more. His last production in this role was in “Der Fliegende Hollander,” conducted by Barenboim.

Balatsch worked with a number of choruses to make recordings. Two of these recordings won the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance: Mozart’s “Requiem” in 1981 with Carlo Maria Giulini and the Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus; and Bach’s “St Matthew Passion” conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.