Vienna renames conservatoire after wacky pianist

Vienna renames conservatoire after wacky pianist


norman lebrecht

May 16, 2022

The International Academy of Music and Performing Arts Vienna is to be renamed the Friedrich Gulda School of Music Vienna from the next academic year.

Gulda (1930-2000), possibly the most original and eccentric pianist ever to emerge from Vienna was shunned in his lifetime by the establishment. He took up jazz, wore funny headgear and sometimes gave recitals naked with a girlfriend. He was a ray of light in a tenebrous society.

Together with the name change, the conservatory with public law, which has existed since 2017, is also sharpening its profile in the Viennese university and conservatory landscape:

Marcus Ratka, principal of the Gulda School says: The mission statement associated with the name Friedrich Gulda stands for mutual respect and exchange between genres and cultures worldwide, for music as a positive and peace-making force in an increasingly complex world with its new challenges. The connection with the name of the great musician Friedrich Gulda means encouragement and obligation at the same time: Inner fire, passionate devotion, patient work, but also relaxation and humour, but above all love for the cause, for people and the environment.’


  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Gulda has been one of the more successful musicians at presenting and combining both classical and jazz. I like his work.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Famous for his Mozart’s records with DG also. Now there are so few pianists who record Mozart’s concertos or play it in concerts.

  • IP says:

    He may have been barking mad as a person, but Gulda is a great pianist, not a wacky one.

    • Willem Philips says:

      Agree 1000%. Gulda was an eccentric tuned to his own radio frequency and listening to his own drummer, but he was a great artist and performer. Wacky? Mr. Lebrecht, you clearly don’t know the meaning of the word. Wacky means crazy–perhaps insane. That, Mr. Gulda was definitely not. Learn the meaning of the terms you use.

  • Nick says:

    Original, Eccentric, Genius — yes! “Wacky”? — NO.

  • Amos says:

    In the 1960’s, he was conventional and an excellent pianist:

  • Rudy says:

    I was lucky to attend his there recitals (Mozart sonatas) at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in 1980. Unforgettable.

  • Rudy says:

    Wacky ??

  • M McAlpine says:

    I enjoy Gulda’s playing of Mozart but I hardly see how him performing naked makes him ‘a ray of light in a tenebrous society’. After all, anyone can take their kit off!

  • Nikos Salingaros says:

    Friedrich Gulda “wacky”? Well, he certainly was a colorful character. Gulda’s career was set back after he had a falling out with Karajan after making a practical joke during a rehearsal (Karajan was not known to possess any sense of humor).

    Nevertheless, since this website has standard policy of praising the late Glenn Gould (and for a very good reason, I might add), it seems oddly one-sided to pick on Gulda as being eccentric. His recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier is actually far superior to that of Gould’s.

    And Gulda’s three complete recordings of the Beethoven piano sonatas are milestones, in contrast to Gould, who had a love-hate relationship with both Beethoven and Mozart. The studio recordings of six Mozart piano concertos by Gulda are simply sublime.

  • astro says:

    I love his Beethoven sonata set. His rhythm is “in the pocket,” as the jazz people say.

  • Hammerklaviersonate says:

    This is one of some dubious private conservatories in Vienna which live in the shadow of international known music institutions as MDW (UNIVERSITY for Music and Performing Arts). The original name “Academy for Music and Performing Arts” is quite misleading, almost legally disputable, so Gulda school is definitely a better choice…

  • DML says:

    Miss the guy.

  • mr oakmountain says:

    Being Viennese myself, I do not remember Mr Gulda EVER being shunned by anyone. He got the best gigs in classical music, jazz and otherwise. He performed at the big festivals, on national radio and television. If anything, he shunned anyone who did not want to cooperate on his onw terms. Most famously, he refused to perform in Vienna for a while unless a critic who dissed one of his compositions would publicly apologise (which he did in the end). If, say, Mr Thielemann did that, he’d get quite a few remarks in this forum, I am sure.

  • Baffled in Buffalo says:

    Wait. If performing naked is a positive thing, why the Slipped Disc anxiety about a certain female pianist’s revealing clothing? Now, I understand the position that simple nudity is more dignified than teasingly scanty attire, but I suspect, Mr. Lebrecht, if I may say so, that you are not thinking these attitudes through.

  • grabenassel says:

    His Beethoven – sonatas recording is still reference. He was in his early twenties and already a worldwide renowned star. It says, that he said during his diploma recital in Vienna to the jury, who wanted to hear more and more:” I know, why you let me play so much – it’s because you know the next time you have to pay for listening to me…..”.Later he was fed up with the oldfashioned world of classical music and tried to escape with sometimes weird performances…..

  • Kathleen King says:

    Was he wackier than Victor Borge? Asking, seriously.

  • Miv Tucker says:

    I agree with earlier commenters thst “eccentric” would have been a better description.
    And also that his performance of Bach’s “48” is fantastic (though sadly he only recorded Book One).
    And this performance of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue is breathtaking.
    But the big question is, how come you never saw him and Peter Sellers photographed together?