The Anglo-Austrian Society (until 1947 the Anglo-Austrian Democratic Society) was founded in 1944 by refugees from Nazi-occupied Austria who wanted to 'spread understanding of the importance of Austrian democracy for peace and progress', and to promote closer contact between British and Austrian democrats. The focus of its initial work at the end of the Second World War was to provide relief to Austrians in general and to Austrian children in particular. In the post-war period the Society worked to promote cross-cultural links between the people of the United Kingdom and Austria by developing the knowledge of the British people about Austria, its people and culture, with the participation of Austrians resident in Britain. The Society was partly subsidised by the Austrian governments, and for some years after the war it was the main body to represent and promote Austrian culture in the UK. The Society is [in 2019] still active, running events for members and providing financial support through the Otto Harpner Fund for researchers from the UK wishing to travel to Austria.
The Anglo-Austrian Music Society was founded in London in the autumn of 1942 by a small group of Austrian refugee musicians and a few English friends led by Austrian refugee musician Ferdinand Rauter – initially as a means of surviving in exile, but also to promote the appreciation and understanding of Austrian music in Britain. They gave concerts throughout the war, and increasingly involved British musicians and British music. In 1946 the administration was merged with that of the Anglo-Austrian Society with Otto Harpner as Secretary of both societies, and visits to Britain by Austrian artists began. The Vienna State Opera came to Covent Garden in 1947, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra first played in London for the Society in 1948. The Vienna Boys Choir visited almost every year from 1950 to 2000, and the Society commissioned Benjamin Britten to write the opera The Golden Vanity for the Choir. Harpner died in 1959 and his position as Secretary was taken by Walter Foster.
Over the years the Anglo-Austrian Music Society has sponsored appearances by many famous artists besides Britten, including Elisabeth Schumann, Kathleen Ferrier, Richard Tauber, Bruno Walter, Clemens Kraus, Myra Hess, Josef Krips and Peter Pears. There have been many concerts and debut recitals by young Austrian musicians – starting in 1949 with the young Friedrich Gulda and continuing through the years with Paul Badura-Skoda, Joerg Demus, Ingrid Haebler, Irmgard Seefried, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Heinz Medjimorec, Heinrich Schiff, the Alban Berg Quartet, The Haydn Trio, Edita Gruberova, Ernst Kovacic, Thomas Riebl and Stefan Vladar amongst many others.
This archive contains the records of the Anglo-Austrian Society (AAS) and Anglo-Austrian Music Society (AAMS) and their subsidiary bodies, the Anglo-Austrian Concert Agency Limited, Austrian Travel Ltd and Anglo-Austrian Tour Agency Ltd. The records include committee minutes, memoranda, correspondence, financial records, photographic material, newsletters and one-off publications by the AAS and AAMS, and other forms of publicity material such as leaflets and flyers.
Although the Anglo-Austrian Society and the Anglo-Austrian Music Society started out as separate bodies (and have remained so for much of their history), for much of that time they were run from the same administrative office and by the same staff, and the records of their activities were, to some extent, merged into the same filing system. Some record series therefore consist of records relating to both societies, while others relate to one or the other of the societies alone.
The record series comprising records of both (and in some cases also the subsidiary) Anglo-Austrian bodies are: AAS/1, which contains records relating to the constitution and structure of the Anglo-Austrian group of organisations, including Memoranda and Articles of Association and related correspondence, particularly in relation to the incorporation of the AAS in 1958; AAS/4, containing annual reports and activities reports of the Anglo-Austrian and Anglo-Austrian Music Societies, some written by the Secretariat for the AAS Executive Committee, some by the Executive Committee for the AGM or the wider public; AAS/5, which contains both societies’ accounts and other financial records; AAS/6, containing copies of annual returns for the Register of Director; AAS/15, which contains publicity material for the full range of activities carried out by the AAS and AAMS, from lectures to concerts to language courses; and finally, AAS/17, which contains direct mail communications such as newsletters.
The series relating to the internal mechanisms of solely the Anglo-Austrian Society and its sub-committees are: AAS/2 (minutes) and AAS/3 (correspondence), and the record series relating to activities primarily carried out by the Anglo-Austrian Society are: AAS/11 (Austrian Children Reception Committee and Children's Holiday Committee records); AAS/13 (the Spanish Riding School); AAS/14 (Special events and trips). Records of subventions by the Austrian government are in AAS/16 and records of property are in AAS/18. These are mentioned here because the AAS was the dominant organisation (the legal recipient of the subsidies and owner of the property), although it should be noted that AAMS made a substantial contribution to all costs.
The minutes and reports, correspondence and accounts of the Anglo-Austrian Music Society is AAS/7. There are unfortunately very few items of correspondence dating from approximately the first 20 years of the AAMS's existence, and the main source of information about the early history of the AAMS is the Executive Committee minutes in AAS/7/2. The records of concerts and tours organised by the AAMS (in some cases jointly organised with the AAS) are in AAS/12, with sub-series AAS/12/16 containing correspondence, contracts and publicity material relating to the tours by the Vienna Boys’ Choir from 1950.
AAS/1 Constitution and structure of the Anglo-Austrian Society, Anglo-Austrian Music Society and subsidiary bodies
AAS/2 Minutes of the Anglo-Austrian Society Executive Committee, sub-committees and AGM
AAS/3 Anglo-Austrian Society correspondence and related administrative records
AAS/4 Anglo-Austrian Society and Anglo-Austrian Music Society annual and activities reports (internal and public)
AAS/5 Accounts and other financial records of the Anglo-Austrian Society, the Anglo-Austrian Music Society and subsidiary societies
AAS/6 Anglo-Austrian Society and Anglo-Austrian Music Society Register of Directors annual returns
AAS/7 Minutes and reports, correspondence and accounts of the Anglo-Austrian Music Society
AAS/8 Anglo-Austrian Concert Agency Register of members, Director's meeting minutes and annual accounts.
AAS/9 Anglo-Austrian Tourist Agency Register of members, Director's meeting minutes and annual accounts.
AAS/10 Austria Travel Limited Register of members, Director's meeting minutes and annual accounts.
AAS/11 Austrian Children Reception Committee and Children's Holiday Committee records
AAS/12 Anglo-Austrian Music Society Concerts and musical tours, including VBC
AAS/13 Spanish Riding School records
AAS/14 Special events and trips
AAS/15 Publicity material for all Anglo-Austrian Society and Anglo-Austrian Music Society activities
AAS/17 Communications with members and direct mailings
AAS/19 Partner organisations
AAS/21 Records relating to Austrian political controversies over Kurt Waldheim and Walter Reder