Musica Viva was founded on the grand idea that people can be connected and communities can be strengthened through music. Our founder, Richard Goldner, a violist and inventor, held on to the belief that music could bring joy to people, even during the bleakest times.
Richard and his brother fled Austria for Australia in 1939, in the wake of Hitler’s invasion of Vienna. In 1944, Richard formed a dynamic string ensemble to honour the memory of his late teacher who had perished in a Warsaw concentration camp – and thus Musica Viva was born, consisting of 17 players: 4 string quartets and a double bass. The inaugural Musica Viva concert was held on 8 December 1945 at the Sydney Conservatorium. The concert became legendary for a power failure at the Con meant that the performers were lit only by car headlights and the venue reached a capacity crowd.
The success of the concert inspired Goldner to further develop Musica Viva as a not-for-profit organisation to promote chamber music across the country. A demanding touring schedule ensued, taking the ensemble 50,000 miles a year and performing 170 concerts. Demand for Musica Viva grew rapidly and a subscription series was soon established. Richard carried a substantial financial commitment, along with growing donor and corporate backing. The local Jewish refugee community offered great support, keen to recreate the social networks they had enjoyed in Europe.
Soon the touring commitments grew too much for the Musica Viva ensemble and the idea of introducing overseas musicians was proposed. The Pascal Quartet from France became the first international touring ensemble for Musica Viva in 1955.
That same year the company was incorporated but Richard remained as Artistic Director for a further 17 years. Richard died in 1991, aged 83. His legacy is sustained by a vibrant and expanding company, committed to inspiring all Australians through music.