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At the first Vienna Philharmonic concert which Marcello Viotti conducted, on January 28, 1997, the program included, in addition to the Haffner and Linzer Symphonies of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the Haffner Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (with soloist Wolfgang Schultz) by Helmut Eder, a work commissioned by the International Mozart Symposium which had been premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic and Wolfgang Schultz under the direction of Wolfgang Sawallisch at the Salzburg Mozart Week 1985. Following a cancellation on short notice by Horst Stein, Marcello Viotti was forced to learn this very complicated score within only a few days, and, according to Viotti himself, devoted every free minute to its study.
It was on February 8, 2005, only one week before Marcello Viotti, that Helmut Eder passed away at the age of 88 in Salzburg, where he had worked tirelessly until shortly before his death. Eder was born on December 26, 1916 in Linz. He attended the local Bruckner Conservatory after being released as a prisoner of war in 1945, and also taught grade school in Everding from 1945 to 1950. In 1948 he graduated in conducting and music theory, and studied composition in 1953-54 under Carl Orff. Beginning in 1950 he taught music theory at the Bruckner Conservatory, and moved to the Mozarteum in Salzburg in 1967, from which time on he held a professorship for composition.
Helmut Eder's oeuvre included over 130 compositions, among them six operas, four ballets, the oratorio "Non sum qualis eram", seven symphonies, three violin concerti, one cello and one organ concerto, a double concerto for violoncello and contrabass, and chamber music in various formations, as well as piano, organ and choral works. He attained much popularity with his "Melodia-Ritmica", composed in 1972/73 for the twelve cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic and performed repeatedly by this ensemble, as well as the opera "Mozart in New York", after a libretto by Herbert Rosendorfer, for the Salzburg Festival in 1991.
In addition to the Haffner Concerto, the Vienna Philharmonic performed two other works of Helmut Eder. On October 15 and 16, 1977, Horst Stein conducted the Fourth Symphony, op. 60 (Choral Symphony), and on November 2 and 3, 2002, Johann Hindler (E-flat clarinet), Peter Schmidl (B-flat clarinet), and Andreas Wieser (bass clarinet) were the soloists in the Musica concertante for Three Clarinets and Orchestra, op. 117, under the direction of Seiji Ozawa. This premiere was a last homage to the aging master of the Austrian composer's scene. His 85th birthday was the occasion for this tribute, and ill health prohibited him from making the trip to Vienna and experiencing the first performance of his piece.
This recognition on the part of the orchestra was an expression of the esteem in which he was held, and the friendship which Eder had with several members of the orchestra, such as Peter Pecha and Wolfgang Schultz, for whom he wrote several pieces, staying creatively active until shortly before his death. "I can't do otherwise", he explained, when asked why he remained so absorbed with his work. In this simple statement lies perhaps the secret of his motivation and success. It was his passion for music which kept him in such unbelievably good physical and mental condition, and over and above the personal connection, it was this mutual enthusiasm and love for music which was the common bond he shared with Marcello Viotti.