History of the Salzburg Cultural Association

Pioneering work and cultural event outside the festival season

According to the original mission of the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung, the population of Salzburg should benefit from a lively cultural environment at affordable prices throughout the year. In the post-war years, great pioneering work had to be done for the cultural diversity that we can experience in Salzburg today and that makes our city so unique. As the first tenant in the Festspielhaus, the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung organised subscription concerts for the first time from 1951 onwards, later initiated the Salzburg Street Theatre during the festival season and provided the population with a varied exhibition, lecture and course programme from the very beginning. Today the Kulturvereinigung has established itself as Salzburg's leading concert organizer. 

From the archive: 
Post-war education and Salzburg's first theatre and concert subscriptions 

The history of the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung has been closely linked to the Festspielhaus since its foundation in 1947. The founding statutes deliberately advocated "the promotion of the Salzburg Festival, the theatres run by public corporations, the Salzburg concert life [...]". These ideals had to be met and in addition to the educational activities of the cultural association, including various courses and a school-leaving examination for young people returning home from war, the Theaterring, which had existed since 1950, was to be further expanded in cooperation with the Landestheater. To this end, the presidium engaged the then 24-year-old Heinz Erich Klier in 1951, who had worked for the cultural association before - it was to become his lifelong task! - He was also director of the ticket office of the Salzburg Festival. Klier knew how to seize this opportunity: within one season he doubled the number of Theaterring subscribers and shortly afterwards laid the foundation stone for the concert ring, which is so successful today. It began in 1952, first in the Great Aula of the University, and then two years later they ventured into the Small Festspielhaus. As early as 1957, the concert ring was moved to the old Großer Festspielhaus, which was reopened in 1960 according to the plans of Clemens Holzmeister. Hardly anyone would have thought it possible at that time that someone would be able to fill the Festspielhaus outside of the festival. However, the subscription concerts had an enormous pull on the Salzburg population and were always sold out. Here you could see and hear the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Aram Katschaturian, the Moscow Philharmonic with solo violinist David Oistrach or the Vienna Symphony conducted by Eduard Strauss. From the 1963/64 season onwards, an additional concert series had to be offered in the Small Festspielhaus, as there were no more subscriptions for the series in the Large Festspielhaus. 

The concert cycles found a large and loyal circle of subscribers, who today number around 5,000 permanent visitors. In addition, there is the great success of the New Year's concerts in the Großer Festspielhaus, which have been held since 1997. The two-week music festival "Salzburger Kulturtage", which was founded in 1972 as a kind of "musical season extension" in autumn and promptly received the nickname "Festspiele für jederermann" (Festival for Everyone), also played a special role. Here the Salzburgers came together for concerts and opera performances - as artists as well as audiences, mixed with an international clientele who knew how to enjoy the golden Autumn in Salzburg.

Street theatre for the Salzburgers 

It was the festival director Oscar Fritz Schuh who, together with his wife Ursula, had the idea of a fairground theatre with free admission. In 1970 his idea was finally accepted by the Kulturvereinigung and became its future sponsor. The subsidy providers city, state and federal government saw this as a suitable opportunity to present the street theatre as a kind of "opening of the festival" for the population of Salzburg. The Stiegl brewery provided the two magnificent horses and coachmen and donated a beer wagon to the Kulturvereinigung, which was converted by the Salzburg Festival into a theatre wagon. Schuh remained faithful to the street theatre until his death in 1984, after which director Klaus Gmeiner held the reins for 30 years before director and actor Georg Clementi took over the direction of the street theatre in 2016. 

Fell out of time: Lectures with color photographs

In addition to the theatre and concert sectors, the Kulturvereinigung devoted itself to education and organised popular science colour slide lectures, to which thousands of people from all over the region made pilgrimages, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. At a time when information was not as easily accessible as it is today, lectures by Heinrich Harrer on "7 Years in Tibet", Dr. Hans Hass on the "Great Animal World of the Sea" or lectures on Africa regularly blew up the capacity of the Great University Auditorium.

The Legacy of Georg Trakl - Salzburg's Internationally Most Famous Poet

A further responsible task awaited the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung in 1973, when the province of Salzburg took care of the Trakl memorial in the poet's birthplace, which had been newly created with the help of the Kulturvereinigung. Since 1973, the curator and director Dr. Hans Weichselbaum has constantly expanded and filled the memorial with life. The most important addition was the acquisition of the Trakl estate from Erhard Buschbeck, a school friend of Trakl (1978). It was supplemented by a donation from Prof. Lotte Tobisch-Labotyn in 2008. In 1987, on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Georg Trakl, the memorial was spatially expanded into a research and memorial site (GTFG). Today the GTFG has a considerable collection of manuscripts, documents, publications and photographs as well as a film portrait and is accessible to visitors on a daily basis.

From pioneer to Salzburg's leading concert organizer

In the course of its 70-year history, the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung has established itself as the leading concert promoter in the city of Mozart. Today it is responsible for a large part of the symphonic musical life of the city and invites internationally renowned orchestras to the main venue of the Salzburg Festival even outside festival hours. In a long-standing partnership with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, more than 900 concerts have been organized to date. The Salzburgers also know the Kulturvereinigung as the organiser of the Salzburg Street Theatre, which has been stopping at around 40 venues in the city and province of Salzburg every summer since 1970 with its theatre car and offers high-quality theatre with free admission. In addition, the Kulturvereinigung has been operating the Georg Trakl Research and Memorial Site (GTFG) since 1973 and conveys the literary heritage of Salzburg's internationally most famous poet in this museum and in numerous events. The ticket office of the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung is also located here in the historic Trakl House.

Facts & Figures

The Salzburg Cultural Association (Salzburger Kulturvereinigung) was founded in 1947.
Dr. Heinz Erich Klier was Secretary General from 1951 to 2009 and is still active as Vice President today.

In 1950 the first theatre subscriptions (Theaterring) are offered by the Kulturvereinigung in cooperation with the Landestheater

1951 the Kulturvereinigung becomes the first tenant in the Festspielhaus and organises the very first subscription concerts there in Salzburg.

1962 Dr. Heinz Erich Klier and Prof. Gustav Gruber founded the Orchestra of the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung.

Following an idea by Prof. Oscar Fritz Schuh, the Salzburg Street Theatre was founded in 1970 and is still successful today.

In 1972 - the year of the 25th anniversary of the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung - Dr. Klier founded the "Salzburg Cultural Days", which still have a firm place in the cultural life of the Mozart city today.

In 1973, after years of preparation, a research and memorial site (GTFG) was established in the renovated birthplace of Georg Trakl.

Since 1997, the New Year concerts have been breaking annual records, and the unrestrained demand has made it necessary to expand to two New Year concerts for the first time in 2011 and even to three New Year concerts in one day in 2013.

In 2009 Elisabeth Fuchs took over the artistic direction and thus the entire programme planning. Together with her, Josefa Hüttenbrenner, as commercial director, took up the challenge of positioning the company as a non-profit organisation in a contemporary way.

In November 2012 Hans Schinwald was elected the new president of the Salzburg Cultural Association.

In 2016 the director and actor Georg Clementi becomes the new artistic director of the Salzburg Street Theatre.

In October 2017, the Salzburger Kulturvereinigung celebrates its 70th anniversary with a ceremony in the Residenz and a subsequent concert with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg in the Großer Festspielhaus.

Thomas Heißbauer has been the new artistic director of the Salzburg Cultural Association since October 2018.

Festakt zu "70 Jahre Salzburger Kulturvereinigung"