Saturday 30 April 1988


Born: January 8th, 1951, Porto (Portugal)
Died: June 17th, 2009, Oeiras, Lisbon (Portugal)
Nationality: Portuguese

Below, a medium-length article detailing the life and works of José Calvário can be found. Hopefully, in due course, it can be extended to a full-fledged biography


José Calvário, born in the northern Portuguese metropole of Porto in 1951, started practicing the piano at a very early age, and quite successfully so, judging by the fact that, aged six, he gave his first recital. By 1961, he performed as a piano soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Porto. Later in the 1960s, he studied Economy at a Swiss university, meanwhile discovering the world of jazz and pop by playing in different ensembles both in Switzerland and in Portugal, most notably Toni Moura’s group Psico.

In 1971, Calvário finally returned to his native country and settled in Lisbon to work as a composer, arranger, and record producer in the popular music industry, a business that he was to remain faithful to until the very end. He wrote his first arrangement for Adriano Correia de Oliveira. Thanks mainly to his successful participations in the Portuguese Eurovision preliminaries from 1971 onwards (see below) his star in the music business in his country rose fast. He regularly worked with some of Portugal’s most acclaimed artists, such as Duarte Mendes, Tonicha, Paulo de Carvalho, and Samuel. He had the ability to write in very different genres, ranging from avant-garde to commercial pop. During the 1970s, he released several albums with self-penned orchestrations to existing songs. Amongst these, ‘Eurovisão - 10 Canções’, with cover versions of ten participants in the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest; and ‘The Best Disco in Sound’ (1977), containing daring adaptations of fado classics such as ‘Canção do mar’ and ‘Coimbra’.

José Calvário worked with singer-songwriter Fernando Tordo on several albums in the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these collaborations was on the album ‘Menino Ary dos Santos’, a tribute to the deceased poet and songwriter José Carlos Ary dos Santos. Three of these Tordo albums were recorded in the Abbey Road Studios, London. Between 1985 and 1993, Calvário recorded the albums ‘Saudades’ I, II and III with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, again containing new instrumental versions to well-known Portuguese repertoire, as well as a tribute to film music, ‘Cinema português’.

In 1991, for the first time, Calvário tried his hand at composing a concerto for a classical orchestra. He conducted the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra during the recordings for the album ‘Mapas’. He again turned to the London Philharmonic for a recording project with Portuguese guitar virtuoso António Chaínho. Moreover, Calvário composed the soundtrack to the movie picture ‘Kiss me’.

In November 2008, José Calvário suffered a severe heart attack, after which he never regained consciousness. He died in a Lisbon hospital seven months later, aged 58.

Tonicha congratulating singer Carlos Mendes with his win in the 1972 Festival da Canção with the song 'A festa da vida', composed by José Calvário (far left) with lyrics by José Niza (far right)


Immediately upon his return in Portugal in 1971, José Calvário entered the Festival RTP da Canção, or, as it was then called, Grande Prémio TV da Canção, for the first time. His composition ‘Flor sem tempo’, a strong melody with words by José Sottomayor, was performed by Paulo de Carvalho, a former youth football player of Benfica and an artist that was to play a major role in Calvário’s career. He did not write the arrangement to this entry himself, leaving that job to Pedro Osório. ‘Flor sem tempo’ song finished second behind Tonicha’s ‘Menina’, but became an instant hit and has become part of the trademark repertoire of Paulo de Carvalho.

Until 1981, Calvário would be involved in every edition of the Portuguese Eurovision heats, albeit in different roles. In 1972 he submitted a self-composed song to the competition, ‘A festa da vida’. In the rendition of Carlos Mendes, this lively, upbeat entry stormed to victory in the Grande Prémio and subsequently finished a respectable seventh position in the Eurovision Song Contest final in Edinburgh. Portugal had never done better before, and it would take until 1996 before, finally, Lúcia Moniz was able to improve on this result. Most probably, Calvário made the arrangement for the original demo version of the song, after which Richard Hill, a Scottish musician, wrote the orchestration that was used for the record version and the performance in both the Portuguese final and the subsequent Eurovision final in Edinburgh.

One of the most long-lasting working-relationships in the career of Calvário was with lyricist José Niza. ‘A festa da vida’ was penned by him, and they teamed up again in 1973, writing songs performed by Tonicha and Duarte Mendes in the national final. Both ‘A rapariga e o poeta’ and ‘Gente’, which came third, were arranged and conducted by José Calvário himself.

The 1974 effort of the Calvário/Niza partnership, a melodious love ballad by the title of ‘E depois do adeus’, is a remarkable song in more than one way. First of all, with it, singer Paulo de Carvalho won the Grande Prémio and a ticket to the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton. José Calvário made his first of four appearances as a conductor in the contest, aged 23 and thereby one of the youngest ever to conduct in this competition. During the performance in Brighton, he can be seen agitatedly walking about in front of the orchestra. The song did not do well, picking up three meagre points and tying for last place with the West German and Swiss entries. The studio recording of the song that was released shortly after the contest has a much lower tempo, which does the composition more justice. A couple of weeks after the contest, in Portugal, the Carnation Revolution broke out, a coup by lower military with left-wing sympathies which ousted the dictatorial Caetano regime from power. The airing of ‘E depois do adeus’ on the Emissores Associados de Lisboa radio station on April 24th, was the preconcerted signal for the revolutionaries to start their planned action. Needless to say, ‘E depois do adeus’ has gone on to become one of the most well-known songs in Portuguese popular music of all times. Numerous artists recorded their own versions of it.

Calvário would not enter the Portuguese heats with one of his own compositions until 1983; instead, he concentrated on arranging songs by other writers. The 1975 preliminaries were dominated by songs celebrating the successful military coup of the preceding year. Paulo de Carvalho participated again, with two entries. The first one was entirely written by José Niza, ‘Com uma arma com uma flor’ (With a weapon with a flower), the second one by Fernando Guerra. Both pieces were orchestrated and conducted by José Calvário, coming third and fourth respectively. In 1976, he wrote the arrangements to two songs written by José Luis Tinoco for Carlos do Carmo to sing in the preliminaries.

In 1977, Calvário was musical director of the Festival da Canção, conducting all fourteen entries, but arranging none of them. Among the participants that year were Gemini, Green Windows, Paco Bandeira, Bric-à-Brac, and Conjunto Maria Albertina. The competition was won by Os Amigos, a group especially formed for the occasions and with Paulo de Carvalho and Fernando Tordo among its members. Their song ‘Portugal no coração’ was yet another celebration of the Carnation Revolution. José Calvário joined the group as its conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Wembley, London. For both the national final and the record version of the song, a score by José Luis Simões was used. However, for the performance in the 1977 contest, the arrangement was radically changed, sounding more up-beat and more resembling the one which Mike Sergeant had written for Gemini, the other group which performed ‘Portugal no coração’ in the Festival da Canção. It ranks among the most spectacular orchestrations ever written for a Eurovision song. Unfortunately, ‘Portugal no coração’ was not very much appreciated by the Eurovision juries, finishing 14th.

In the years to come (1978-85), Calvário wrote many more arrangements for the Festival RTP da Canção, for artists from very different corners of the music spectrum, such as Tonicha, Samuel, and the girl group Doce. He came close to winning the competition as an arranger in 1984 with ‘Pelo fim da tarde’, but the song, composed by Pedro Calvário and performed by Samuel, came second to Maria Guinot. In 1985, Adelaide Ferreira won the Festival da Canção with ‘Penso em ti, eu sei’, a song by Tó Zé Brito arranged by Calvário, who accompanied her as a conductor to the Eurovision Song Contest in Gothenburg, where she came second-last.

In 1981, Calvário was musical director of the Festival RTP for the second time, conducting six of twelve entries. During the 1980s, he composed three more songs for the Eurovision Song Contest. His efforts ‘E afinal quem és tu’ (1983) and ‘Meia de conversa’ (1985) both came third in the Festival da Canção. In 1988, for the first time, the RTP did not organize a televised selection for its Eurovision entry, instead opting for an internal procedure. José Calvário’s work ‘Voltarei’, once again with lyrics by José Niza and performed by Dora, was deigned to be the most suitable Portuguese representative for the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin. The song, a ballad, has an unusual build-up, and offered Dora the opportunity to sport her powerful voice. Calvário himself conducted the song. The international juries awarded ‘Voltarei’ with only five points and a position near the bottom of the table.


Paulo de Carvalho was the artist with whom Calvário worked most extensively during the 1970s, amongst which on the Portuguese Eurovision entries of 1974 and 1977. “Our first contact was when he invited me to perform ‘Flor sem tempo’ for the Portuguese Song Contest. He produced more than ten single recordings for me from 1973 to 1975. Years later, in 1993, we recorded an album together, ‘Alma’, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Abbey Road Studios. In the 1970s, José was a very innovating composer and producer who made a big impact on the arid Portuguese music panorama. He had a very rigorous character and, at times, could be quite harsh, but he was an extremely talented professional nevertheless”. (2009)

Richard Hill conducted Calvário’s first Eurovision entry, ‘A festa da vida’, which came seventh in the contest in Edinburgh in 1972. “I’m sorry to hear of José’s passing away at such a young age. I only worked with him once, on the Eurovision project in ’72. A publishing company for which I worked at that time, ATV Music, acquired publishing on ‘A festa da vida’ and asked me to write the arrangement. There must have been a demo of some sort from which I did the orchestration; it is quite probable that José wrote the original arrangement, but I cannot be sure. I conducted the song in the Portuguese national selection and it won. My recollections of José are that he was an extremely nice guy and not at all a rock ‘n’ roll icon. He seemed well-educated, polite and extremely professional – in other words: a delight to work with, both in Lisbon and in Edinburgh. In fact, the whole of the Portuguese delegation treated me with great courtesy throughout the experience.” (2009)

Carlos do Carmo, the Portuguese contestant in the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest, giving a reaction upon the news of Calvário’s passing away. “It is so striking that José’s arrangements still sound modern and up-to-date. His orchestrations to the two songs composed by José Luís Tinoco that I performed in the 1976 Portuguese final, are testimony to that. Remarkable arrangements for two remarkable songs. Usually, my song arranger was Thilo Krasmann, and later Bernardo Sassetti; I find it quite regrettable that José and I never had a further opportunity to work together”. (2009)

José Calvário at the piano accompanying three of the artists he extensively worked with during the 1970s: (from left to right) Paulo de Carvalho, Fernando Tordo, and Duarte Mendes. Photo probably taken at the 1975 Festival da Canção, the Portuguese Eurovision selection show


Country – Portugal
Song title – "A festa da vida"
Rendition – Carlos Mendes
Lyrics – José Niza
Composition – José Calvário
Studio arrangement – José Calvário / Richard Hill
Live orchestration – José Calvário / Richard Hill
Conductor – Richard Hill
Score – 7th place (90 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – "E depois do adeus"
Rendition – Paulo de Carvalho 
Lyrics – José Niza
Composition – José Calvário
Studio arrangement – José Calvário
Live orchestration – José Calvário
Conductor – José Calvário
Score – 14th place (3 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – "Portugal, no coração"
Rendition – Os Amigos (Luisa Basto / Ana Bola / Paulo de 
Carvalho / Fernanda Picara / Edmundo Silva / Fernando Tordo)
Lyrics – José Carlos Ary dos Santos
Composition – Fernando Tordo
Studio arrangement – José Luis Simões
Live orchestration – José Calvário
Conductor – José Calvário
Score – 14th place (18 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – "Penso em ti, eu sei"
Rendition – Adelaide Ferreira
Lyrics – Luís Fernando / Adelaide Ferreira
Composition – Tózé Brito
Studio arrangement – José Calvário
Live orchestration – José Calvário
Conductor – José Calvário
Score – 18th place (9 votes)

Country – Portugal
Song title – "Voltarei"
Rendition – Dora 
Lyrics – José Niza
Composition – José Calvário
Studio arrangement – José Calvário
Live orchestration – José Calvário
Conductor – José Calvário
Score – 18th place (5 votes)

  • Many thanks to Richard Hill and Paulo de Carvalho for sharing with us their memories of working with José Calvário
  • Pictures courtesy of Paulo de Carvalho


The following article is an overview of the career of Norwegian clarinettist, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and conductor Arild Stav. The main source of information is an interview with Mr Stav, conducted by Bas Tukker in Skedsmokorset, Norway, July 2011. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Arild Stav's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2011

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Arild Stav
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: April 12th, 1956, Lillestrøm (Norway)
Nationality: Norwegian


Arild Stav represented Norway on one occasion in the Eurovision Song Contest, conducting the orchestra for ‘For vår jord’, which was the Nordic country’s entry in the 1988 edition of the festival. In Dublin, this ballad, composed by Anita Skorgan and performed by Karoline Krüger, managed to pick up 88 votes, finishing in 5th place.


Arild Stav grew up in Lillestrøm, a provincial town to the north of Oslo. For as long as he can remember, music was part of his life. “When I was five or six years old, I started to play the accordion. I also tried playing the trumpet. My father was not a music professional – he worked for the Norwegian branch of Philips – but he was the leader of a wind octet and conducted a marching band for some time. Music was a hobby for as long as he lived. As far as the trumpet was concerned, I discovered pretty fast that I was not good at playing it, upon which I decided to switch to the clarinet."

"Aged nine, I joined a school band. Though I loved playing, the theoretical part of music hardly interested me and I saved my skin by sheer musical instinct. It was not until I became a member of a local big band as well as a wind orchestra that I realised that sightreading was quite indispensable, as I felt it was unfair towards the rest of the band not to know my part thoroughly. Meanwhile, I had a hard time at school, as music was practically always the only thing on my mind – it is fair to say that I regularly dozed off when other subjects were discussed in class. I felt playing music gave me the opportunity to speak in a language of my own. Therefore, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to go to the music academy.”

Stav did not finish his secondary education in his native Lillestrøm, but in Oslo, where he was a pupil (1973-76) at the Foss Upper Secondary School. “The curriculum there includes all normal school subjects, but there is a focus on music, allowing students to prepare for the academy. At Foss, I followed courses in theoretical subjects such as solfège and music history; moreover, apart from studying the clarinet, I was also taught to play the saxophone, the flute, and the piano.” 

One year after finishing his studies at Foss, Stav entered the Norwegian Academy of Music, also in Oslo, where he graduated in 1981. He studied the clarinet with Richard Kjelstrup, in the meantime focussing on a wide range of other, compulsory subjects, including harmony and arranging. He also took several conducting courses, including one with the renowned Norwegian opera and operetta conductor Arvid Fladmoe.

Stav (3rd from left) with his band Undertakers Circus on the sleeve of a 1972 single release

It was not long before Stav’s talent as a clarinettist came to the fore. In 1978, when he was only in his second year at the Music Academy, the Stavanger Symphonic Orchestra invited him to become its principal clarinet player for half a year (1978-79). “They needed a replacement for a couple of months and my teacher at the conservatoire had advised them to consider me. Although I had to move to Stavanger and my music studies came to a halt for a while, I decided to take this opportunity with both hands, because what could be better than gaining experience with a professional classical orchestra? Shortly after graduation I also spent two years with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.”

Though Stav seemed destined for a career as a classical instrumentalist, his broad interest in music led him to other professional activities. “During my stay in Stavanger, Egil Monn-Iversen asked me to be a member of the orchestra which accompanied Guys And Dolls, one of his musical theatre productions which was staged at the local theatre for many months. Egil wanted to hire musicians who were able to play more than one instrument at a professional level. Doing this kind of theatre work was some sort of breakthrough for me as a person. It was then that I started to enjoy approaching music from another angle. I had always been fascinated by Wagner’s concept of Gesamtkunst, mixing different flavours and disciplines, and the music I listened to as a teenager comprised all conceivable genres, from pop and rock to serious music. Egil was satisfied by what I did and wanted to have me for West Side Story in the Norwegian Theatre in Oslo, but due to a serious hand injury I had to skip this commission.”

From the very beginning of his studies at the Music Academy in Oslo, Stav also became involved in the studio recording business. “It was mostly thanks to Jahn Teigen that my career as a session musician got underway. In the mid-1970s, I was a member of a progressive rock band from Lillestrøm which was called Undertakers Circus. It was disbanded in 1976. One of the boys from the band knew Jahn Teigen and his entourage. When Teigen was looking for a saxophone player, it was his friend from Undertakers Circus who gave him the advice to ask me. This was in 1978, when Jahn had just taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest in Paris with ‘Mil etter mil’ and scored his famous nil points. After the festival, Jahn and his entire band got in the car to Hamburg to record an album ironically titled ‘This Year’s Loser’."

"The record did very well in Norway and we actually did a series of highly successful performances throughout the country, the so-called Toilet Tour. Jahn fully exploited his failure in Paris and people in Norway sympathised with him because his career was ‘down the toilet’. Jahn is a star in Norway and stars have to be handled in a special way. Nevertheless, I think he is a wonderful person. Still in 1978, we did a theatre show composed by Jahn which was performed in the Nye Teater in Oslo, Fantomets glade bryllup. One year later we recorded a second, equally well-received album, ‘En dags pause’. I played in Jahn’s band for seven or eight years and we toured extensively in Norway and beyond. As Jahn was married to Anita Skorgan at that time, I worked a lot with her in those years as well.”

From the late 1970s onwards and throughout the 1980s, Stav was one of Oslo’s most sought-after session musicians. He played the saxophone, clarinet, and flute on some 400 different recordings with a wide range of jazz and popular singers, instrumentalists, and groups, including, among many others, Anita Skorgan, Marius Müller, Kate Gulbrandsen, Bobbysocks, Morten Harket, and Dollie de Luxe. In a studio session in Hamburg with producer Tore Syvertsen, Stav was one of the musicians recording an album with Mayte Mateos, half of the Baccara duo. In 1985, he was even hired to play the saxophone on the album ‘Loving That Rock ‘n’ Roll’ by Yugoslavian Eurovision star Daniel Popović. 

“Many classically trained musicians tend to look down upon pop and rock, because they think this kind of music lacks refinement," Stav explains. "I have never been of that school; I have always felt you cannot judge a particular style of music before having been involved in it yourself. Working in the studio has been interesting because of the wide range of genres and different arrangements. Although, at the bottom of my heart, I have always thought of myself as a jazz musician, I have never been reluctant to learn more about all kinds of music, looking forward to challenges and wanting to show to myself and others that I was able to manage doing many different things – including working on stage and for television. One of the highlights for me was the Pan-Scandinavian tour with Carola, a very popular Swedish singer, in 1985.”

In the early 1980s, under the aegis of the ubiquitous Egil Monn-Iversen, Stav began working as a musician on theatre projects again. Most of these shows were staged in Oslo’s Château Neuf. “Initially, Egil himself took care of the conducting job, but some time in 1985, he told me that he was in the process of writing the arrangements to a new musical comedy, Sommer i Tyrol. He wanted a smaller combo for this show, with a Stehgeiger or any of the other musicians leading the band instead of a conductor. I expressed my interest in leading such an orchestra and Egil thought this was a good idea. For one reason or another, he liked my way of working and, although he was not the easiest of persons to work with, he was generous for those he respected. Sommer i Tyrol featured some big shots in the Norwegian entertainment business, such as Rolv Wesenlund and Leif Juster. The production was a success and, from that moment onwards, Egil trusted me as a musical director – and later as a fully-fledged conductor as well.”

In the second half of the 1980s as well as in the 1990s and the 2000s, Arild Stav conducted many stage shows in the Château Neuf, including The Sound Of Music starring Sissel Kyrkjebø (1988), a huge box-office success in Norway, Annie Get Your Gun, La cage aux folles, and Oh Calcutta. On top of that, he conducted another production, Napp igjen, which was staged in Oslo’s Central Theatre. Thanks to the reputation he had built up as a session musician and a theatre conductor, Stav was invited to work on several television projects with NRK in the 1980s and 1990s as well, including several editions of the Norwegian Eurovision pre-selection as a member of the accompanying orchestra, as an instrumental soloist on stage, and as the show’s musical director in 1988. Moreover, he conducted TV orchestras for live shows and galas such as Filmens dag and the opening of the Aker Brygge Conference Centre in Oslo.

Playing the saxophone on stage in a Jahn Teigen concert

Between 1989 and 1993, Stav spent most of his time in Trondheim, being the solo clarinettist of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. “I was quite disillusioned when I went to Trondheim in 1989”, Stav admits. “I had just finished conducting The Sound Of Music at Château Neuf more than 100 times; it was the biggest success in Norwegian musical theatre history and yet we did not get our money. The production company was broke! My conclusion was that I could not trust the theatre business and that it was safer to go for a regular position in a classical orchestra. During my time in Trondheim I travelled to the Oslo area regularly, where my family lived. There was even time to conduct some musical theatre productions at Château Neuf, including West Side Story."

"After 4 years in the Trondheim Symphonic, though, I felt that working in a classical orchestra was not my cup of tea after all. Perhaps that is a bit too negative, because I really liked the music we played. I had the privilege to play Mozart’s 'Clarinet Concerto' in 1991, when it was 200 years ago the composer died. That was a true highlight in my career, but at the same time I felt I did not have enough time to do other things. In the Norwegian language there is a well-known saying about an old circus horse which cannot forget the smell of the arena; well, with me, it was the same; I wanted to do jazz gigs as a saxophonist, for example. However, it is virtually impossible to combine playing the sax and classical clarinet at a high level. As an instrumentalist in a classical orchestra, you have to practice daily for hours on end; to play jazz saxophone in the meantime unfortunately ruins most of the skills you have built up at the clarinet. In short, I felt somewhat frustrated and decided to quit my job in Trondheim to return to Oslo once and for all. Although I have been a regular substitute in several orchestras since, including the Norwegian Opera Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic, and the NRK Radio Orchestra, I have been a freelancer ever since 1993.”

Back in Oslo, Stav once more established himself in the music studios as a saxophonist and occasionally as a producer and conductor as well. He worked on two albums with Wenche Myhre, with whom he also toured Norway. Moreover, he worked in the studio and on stage with the internationally acclaimed Norwegian violinist Arve Tellefsen. Stav also recorded music with the likes of Anita Skorgan and Bendik Hofseth. He conducted the studio orchestra for Maj Britt Andersen’s album ‘Kjærtegn’ (1992). More recently, he co-composed, arranged, and produced the album ‘Hvis jeg kunne fly’ (2006), a charity project for hospitalised children with vocalists Hanne Krogh, Maj Britt Andersen, Trine Rein, and Amund Enger collaborating. Stav also produced recording projects with the Skedsmo Voices, a youth choir, and Stine Hansen, who participated in the 2006 edition of Idol Norway.

“The productions I have worked on are not very glamorous, but, then again, the recording business has changed since the 1980s, and so have the arrangements. Most of the time, producers do not invite session musicians anymore, as computer programming is much cheaper and easier. As a result, the number of sessions has dropped dramatically. Renowned studios in Oslo have had to close their doors due to the collapse of the market. Fortunately, I have not been dependent on studio work. Especially all kinds of theatre productions have made sure I have never been short of commissions, either as a musician or conductor.” 

In a jazz concert (2008)

From 1993 onwards, Stav has been teaching the clarinet at the Lillestrøm Upper Secondary School. He toured with the Riksteater and was involved in several stage shows with the National Theatre, including the musical Rockeulven (2011). In 2005, he conducted the Norwegian staging of The Full Monty

Beside all of this, Stav has been asked to conduct several military bands since the mid-1990s, most importantly the Forsvarets Musikkorps Nord-Norge (Norwegian Army Band North), which is based in Harstad and therefore the world’s northernmost professional military band. In 2011, he conducted a studio album with the band called ‘Tanti saluti’, a most unusual project with undeniable jazz overtones, on which reputed guest performers Gabriele Mirabassi (clarinet) and Lars Jansson (piano) collaborated. In the 2000s, Stav brought together a big band with friends from the music business and performed in concerts with his own soul and gospel band. Moreover, in 2010, he formed a jazz quartet with Hermund Nygård, Jens Andreas Kleiven, and John Børge Askeland.

In 2001, Arild Stav released his first solo album, ‘Dawn’, with a mix of meditative sounds, folk melodies, religious lyrics, and a jazzy instrumentation. Stav about this special project, “It all started quite differently, because the original idea was to record an album with music by Egil Monn-Iversen. However, around that time, Egil fell ill. He was out of business and never returned – so the project had to be stopped. Being its producer, I had already been given the money to make an album, but Egil’s illness changed the direction completely. After having been in the recording business for 25 years, I finally had the opportunity to make something of my own – with music of my choice. All of a sudden, I found out that I could compose some melodies myself as well. For the recording, I invited the friends from the recording studios with whom I had been working all these years, such as Helge Iberg and Ole Edvard Antonsen. We also did some live shows; it truly was an inspirational experience.” 

In 2011, Stav teamed up with one of the musicians with whom he had worked on ‘Dawn’, guitarist Svein Skulstad, to release a new album with self-composed instrumentals, ‘Contemplation’.

Preparing a recording session with the Norwegian Army Band North (2011)


Although Arild Stav was involved in the Eurovision Song Contest as a conductor only once (1988), his involvement in the event goes back further. He played the saxophone in several editions of the Melodi Grand Prix, the Norwegian pre-selection programme. In 1984, he played the sax solo on stage in Beate Jacobsen’s song ‘Strand Hotel’, which finished second behind Dollie de Luxe. Moreover, as a studio musician, he recorded all of the vitally important saxophone parts of Norway’s first-ever Eurovision winner ‘La det swinge’ for Bobbysocks in 1985. 

“Rolf Løvland, Bobbysocks’ composer, was someone with whom I worked quite often in those days," Stav recalls. "For Bobbysocks’ debut album, I also did the entire sax section in their version of Glenn Miller’s ‘In The Mood’. By accident, I played the first saxophone part in a totally wrong rhythm. The producer, however, exclaimed, "This is a work of genius! You must copy exactly the same rhythm in the other parts." This really was an arrangement which came about accidentally. To make sure everyone understood it was a pastiche, they called it ‘In The Mud’.”

In 1988, Arild Stav was invited to be the musical director of the final of that year’s Norwegian pre-selection. The Melodi Grand Prix was held on what was very familiar ground for Stav; the Château Neuf Theatre in Oslo. The presentation of the show was in the able hands of Dan Børge Akerø. Ten songs qualified for the final, with well-known names such as Jahn Teigen, Tor Endresen, Jan Eggum, and Elisabeth Moberg amongst the participating artists. In the end, however, it was a young girl who made her debut, Karoline Krüger, who walked away with first prize for her subtle ballad ‘For vår jord’ (composed by Anita Skorgan with lyrics by Erik Hillestad).

With Karoline Krüger (left) and Anita Skorgan in the greenroom at Dublin's Simmonscourt Pavilion (Eurovision 1988)

“It was someone in the Entertainment Department of NRK who invited me for the job of musical director of the programme – I am not sure who it was, but it certainly was not Egil Monn-Iversen. Egil was not involved in the Eurovision Song Contest in the late 1980s anymore. For the final, I formed a band of 13 elements, with friends such as Helge Iberg, Geir Langslet, Svein Dag Hauge, and Ole Edvard Antonsen in it. There were no strings in this orchestra, just a rhythm section and brass players. Pete Knutsen composed the opening music, to which I wrote the arrangements. Of course, conducting this combo was an easy job. Counting the boys in was all I had to do.”

“The funny thing about this selection programme in Château Neuf was that all competing entries were accompanied live by me and my band, except for the winning song! ‘For vår jord’ had been arranged by Kjetil Bjerkestrand, who was one of my fellow-students at the Music Academy in the 1970s. For the studio recording, he made use of samples, which was a revolution in those days. Even the cello obbligato part which is so important for the sound of the song was recorded by Kjetil himself in his studio by using a sample. Apparently, Anita Skorgan, who was the composer, was so satisfied by the way Kjetil had produced the record, that it was decided upon not to use my combo in the Melodi Grand Prix in Oslo. It was the first time in the history of the event here in Norway that an act completely ignored the orchestra. The team behind Karoline Krüger felt a backing track was a safe foundation which allowed her to focus on singing well without having to worry about the sound of the orchestra being right.”

As the conductor of the Norwegian final, Stav was first choice as the country’s musical director in the international festival final as well. With the winning song not having any live orchestration, it seemed that he had to stay home. 

Waiting to count in the RTÉ Concert Orchestra for one of the rehearsals

“When ‘For vår jord’ was selected to represent us in the contest in Dublin, its production team told me that, although they felt very sorry for me, they did not need the orchestra in Ireland. Therefore, they said, it was impossible for me to accompany Karoline Krüger in the international festival. After a while, however, Kjetil Bjerkestrand himself changed his mind; on second thoughts, he totally disliked the idea of working with backing tracks only in a Eurovision Song Contest final, when there was a huge orchestra with string and brass players available. He told me he felt strongly about this issue, but as the song had already been selected, it was too late to change the entire arrangement. Therefore, Kjetil decided to add a string arrangement and a part for French horn. It gave the song a somewhat more orchestral feel in Dublin than it had had in the pre-selection in Château Neuf. That is the reason why I was invited to come along to Ireland after all. Still, most of the music was on a track – Kjetil pretended to play the keyboards on stage behind Karoline. The backing track included samples with the cello part as well as the entire rhythm base. I conducted the whole thing on click.”

In the contest in Dublin, ‘For vår jord’ was widely regarded as one of the best entries in the competition; a sophisticated ballad performed by a charismatic young girl, who was backed up by an all-star backing group consisting of Kari Iveland, Elisabeth Moberg, Tor Endresen, and Frank Ådahl. In the end, Norway finished in a very respectable fifth position on the scoreboard, picking up 88 points. 

“For me, it did not really come as a surprise we did well in the voting," Stav comments. "‘For vår jord’ has very nice melodic lines, which are not too common for a pop composition. Moreover, the lyrics are quite meaningful, giving the song some substance; and then there was this fantastic background choir which created a genuine soul sound. To be honest, I believe we could have picked up even more points with another lead singer, as the choir was simply too good for Karoline; she was totally blown away by the sound of the four background vocalists. With a more experienced vocalist such as Anita Skorgan herself, we could have come closer to winning the festival.”

In Dublin on the night of the concert, with Luxembourg’s contestant Lara Fabian

“On a personal note, that week in Dublin could hardly have been better. For a start, the atmosphere in our delegation was great, as we enjoyed Irish hospitality to the fullest. Then there was this other thing; I won the bet of the Norwegian delegation, as I had put my money on Céline Dion as the winner and came closest to predicting the first 5 or 10 songs on the scoreboard correctly."

"Moreover, some members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra came to me after the broadcast was over, telling me I had been voted the best conductor of the evening by the instrumentalists of the orchestra. I had never realised the musicians organised such a vote! No, I was not given a present, but of course I smiled! I felt honoured, but at the same time it was a situation which felt kind of awkward. Just think; more than half of the music to our song had been pre-recorded, which made my conducting job very easy. What was more, the week after the contest I played the principal part in Richard Strauss’ 'Domestic Symphony' with the Oslo Philharmonic – a very complicated piece of music. To be praised for conducting the tiny orchestral accompaniment to a 3-minute pop song felt somewhat strange, to say the least! But that is the way things work in the music business, sometimes. I also remember many people in Norway, even music professionals, complimented me on my job in Dublin. Of course, they had seen me on television and apparently their conclusion was that I had to be a rather good musician to conduct an orchestra in such an event. Nevertheless, although doing Eurovision was a very nice experience, my career did not change as a result.”

Arild Stav never returned as a conductor to the Melodi Grand Prix or the Eurovision Song Contest. The year after his Eurovision participation in Dublin, he accepted the job of principal clarinettist in the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, which meant he left most of his theatre and session work in Oslo behind; as a result, he disappeared from the radar of television producers as well. In spite of this, he was a member of the selection committee which chose ‘Mrs. Thompson’ as the Norwegian representative in the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest; two years later, in 1993, he was in the jury which selected Silje Vige and her song ‘Alle mine tankar’ as the most suitable choice for the contest.

The Norwegian delegation in the greenroom; note that Greece's conductor Charis Andreadis is recognisable on the far bottom right-hand side of the image (wearing glasses)


Philip Kruse, a Norwegian singer, lyricist, orchestra leader, producer, and radio host: “Occasionally, Arild played in orchestras I worked with. Though I have not had the opportunity to play with him for many years, I can say that he is an excellent saxophonist and a very nice person.” (2011)


Country – Norway
Song title – “For vår jord”
Rendition – Karoline Krüger
Lyrics – Erik Hillestad
Composition – Anita Skorgan
Studio arrangement – Kjetil Bjerkestrand
Live orchestration – Kjetil Bjerkestrand
Conductor – Arild Stav
Score – 5th place (88 votes)

  • Bas Tukker interviewed Arild Stav in Skedsmokorset, Norway, July 2011
  • The encyclopaedia of Norwegian entertainment music - Jan Eggum, Bård Ose & Siren Steen, “Norsk Pop & Rock Leksikon”, ed. Vega: Oslo 2005
  • All photos courtesy of Arild Stav


Born: March 6th, 1957, Auderghem, Brussels (Belgium)
Nationality: Belgian

In due course, the short impression below will be replaced with a more extensive career overview


As a child, Daniel ‘Dany’ Willem studied the piano, violin, chamber music, and solfège at a music academy before starting his studies at the Conservatoire Royal in Liège, following courses with Romanian violin virtuosos Richard Pieta and Lolo Bobesco. As a student, he played in the quartet Les Cordes Mosanes, which specialized in ancient music, and in orchestras in Brussels and Lausanne. In the 1970s, he co-founded folk group Triskan as well as being a member of several other bands in different genres, ranging from jazz to rock. In 1978, Willem travelled to the United States for the first time; he has spent several spells of a couple of years in the USA since. 

As a composer, arranger, producer, musician, or sound technician, he worked in studios in Belgium, France, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States with many different top artists, including Marvin Gaye, Alison Moyet, Viktor Lazlo, Soulsister, Alain Stivell, Philippe Lafontaine, and Pierre Rapsat. Nowadays, besides his work as a violin soloist and studio musician, Daniel Willem teaches music in Liège.


Daniel Willem co-composed, arranged, and conducted the 1988 Belgian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Laissez briller le soleil’, sung by Reynaert (Joseph Reynaerts). Unfortunately, this ballad failed to catch on with the international jurors, finishing in the bottom half of the scoreboard.


Country – Belgium
Song title – "Laissez briller le soleil"
Rendition – Reynaert
Lyrics – Philippe Anciaux / Joseph 'Jef' Reynaerts
Composition – Joseph 'Jef' Reynaerts / Daniel Willem
Studio arrangement – Daniel Willem
Live orchestration – Daniel Willem
Conductor – Daniel Willem
Score – 18th place (5 votes)


The following article is an overview of the career of Austrian pianist, arranger, and music educator Prof. Harald 'Harry' Neuwirth. The main source of information is an interview with Mr Neuwirth, conducted by Bas Tukker in Schwanberg, Styria, August 2015. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Harald Neuwirth's Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2015

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Harald Neuwirth
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: February 2nd, 1939, Vienna (German-occupied Austria)
Died: March 23rd, 2023, Schwanberg (Austria)
Nationality: Austrian

Prof. Dr. Harald ‘Harry’ Neuwirth was the arranger and conductor of Austria’s hapless Eurovision entry in 1988, ‘Lisa Mona Lisa’, co-written and performed by Wilfried Scheutz, which finished last in the festival final held in Dublin.


Harald Neuwirth’s father, a judge from Graz in Styria, worked in Vienna when Harald was born (1939), but the family moved to Ried im Innkreis in Upper Austria one year later. 

“In 1940, my father was appointed in Linz – and that is why the family left for Ried, where my youngest brother Holger was born. I spent the first thirteen years of my childhood in that town. Though I am a Vorkriegskind, I only remember the final stages of the war. When the Americans were approaching, all young children were called up to pile up bricks to block their tanks. For a 6-year-old, it felt as an adventure. Authorities wanted to turn Austria into an Alpine Fortress to make a last stand against the allies, but of course bricks were not going to do the trick. As soon as the first American soldier raised his head from the tank’s cupola and waved at me, I immediately climbed the vehicle to greet him. I was duly awarded with a chocolate bar! Unfortunately, my father, who like all higher officials in the Reich was jailed by the Americans for interrogation, spent a long time in the Glasenbach political prison – due to a case of mistaken identity they detained him for two years. It took another full six years before he was reinstated as a judge.”

In Ried, young Harald did very well at school, but also excelled in other ways: sports and music. At fourteen, he obtained a second place in Upper Austria’s U18 championships, while, as a concert pianist, he was considered a childhood prodigy. 

The Neuwirth family in the spring of 1946, from left to right: Holger, Harald, mother Anna, Gösta, and father Dr. Josef Neuwirth

“Well, my two brothers and I were taught how to study carefully. My mother did not know much about music, but the piano teacher in Ried told her exactly which exercises I had to do at home – and she simply checked it, always. I began studying the piano when I was six years old. My brothers learned to play the violin and viola instead. Being taught to play a classical instrument was part of a traditional middle-class education in those days. After a while, I was allowed into the amateur symphony orchestra in Ried, a hobby project of the local doctor who was our conductor. As one of the apparently more talented students in the orchestra, I was chosen to play the piano in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 for a concert at the local parish hall in 1951. Since our doctor-conductor happened to have good contacts with the Mozarteum, the conservatoire in Salzburg, I was introduced to Walter Neumüller, who was in charge of the piano class in the conservatoire. I was given a scholarship by Upper Austria’s Governor, upon which I studied for two years with Professor Neumüller (1951-53 - BT)."

In 1953, the family moved to Graz, where Neuwirth’s father took up working as a judge. In Styria, young Harald continued his piano studies at the Grazer Konservatorium, where he stayed until graduating from secondary school in 1957. “It crossed my mind to pursue a conservatoire diploma, but the prospect of failing to make it as a concert pianist and then having to work as a piano teacher abhorred me to such an extent, that I agreed with my parents’ choice. They wanted me to study law. After having allowed my older brother Gösta to choose musicology, they preferred what they considered a ‘real’ career for their second son. Having taken Latin, Greek, and all the other secondary school subjects of a proper humanistic education, my mind was properly trained to learn things by heart very rapidly, which served me well as a law student. This allowed me to devote as much time to tennis and music as I liked.”

In 1962, Harald Neuwirth graduated from Graz’s Karl Franzens University with a Ph.D. degree in law. In December ’60, he had already begun working as an assistant judge. Meanwhile, more and more of Neuwirth’s energy, however, was diverted to music – jazz music, to be more specific. 

Harald Neuwirth’s first-ever public performance, being the piano soloist at a classical concert with the Ried Symphony Orchestra (1951)

“During my student days, my interest in classical music gradually dwindled. Via someone I knew, I accidentally became the owner of a Magnetophon recorder, including a tape with recordings by Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, and other jazz pianists from America. I had been too young to discover jazz in the immediate aftermath of the war. This tape recorder allowed me to first listen to this genre of music. I must have been eighteen or nineteen years of age back then. I listened to it over and over. With my classical background, I was able to write out the music… and after a while, I could play all these pieces myself. Shortly after, I formed a trio with two friends. Our initial problem was harmony… how to create order in the chaos? I had never been taught anything but classical harmony. Bit by bit, I understood how Brubeck and others did it. It had to do with bass lines. I discovered there was no knowledge to speak of on this subject in the German-speaking part of Europe. After a year or so, simply by listening endlessly to American recordings, I felt I got the hang of it.”

The trio Neuwirth refers to was called We Three and, apart from Neuwirth himself (piano), consisted of Adelhardt Reudinger (bass), and Erich Bachträgl (drums). Not taking into account his short involvement as a pianist with the Fritz Körner Big Band in Graz, We Three was Neuwirth’s first attempt at performing jazz music – and it proved to be quite successful. In 1963, We Three came second in Austria’s amateur jazz contest in Vienna. 

“This festival was a real opportunity. After the Austrian State Treaty in 1955, all Austrian jazz musicians of any importance, such as Carl Drewo and Joe Zawinul, had left Vienna to pursue a career in West Germany or America. Now that the American troops had gone, there was no longer any money in playing jazz in Austria. This generation of professional jazz musicians was replaced by amateurs… guys like me who simply started to play. In the early 60s, in which an urge to renew culture and music in particular was felt, there were ample opportunities for us. This nationwide amateur jazz festival was one example. In Graz alone, there were no fewer than twelve groups competing in the Styria pre-selection. Anyone with the slightest ability to play wanted to take part. In the 1962 nationwide final in Vienna, we were beaten into second place by the Rudi Josel Trio, also from Graz, only to come back and win first prize in the 1965 and 1965 editions. These were events which did not go unnoticed, as radio and television were there to cover it. By 1965, though, we had grown into a quartet with bass player Anton Bärnthaler, Manfred Josel on drums, and Heinz Hönig playing the saxophone.”

Though public interest in Graz itself for the jazz boom, with so many local young performers giving proof of their talent, remained low, it was Fritz Körner, one of the founding fathers of Graz’s jazz scene, who had a vision for something unheard of in Europe at that time: a jazz school. After lobbying extensively with local authorities, he managed to get the go ahead sign in 1965 to create a Jazz Institute at the Graz Music Academy. From the outset, Harald Neuwirth was involved in Körner’s project. 

The Erich Kleinschuster Sextett in 1966, from left to right: Hans Salomon (tenor sax), Robert Politzer (trumpet), Erich Kleinschuster (trombone), Erich Bachträgl (drums), Rudolf Hansen (bass), and Harald Neuwirth (piano)

“Körner was a clever man. In those years, ‘jazz’ was the word expressed most often in connection to the cultural liberation which politicians were so eager to bring about. It was funny that the first jazz school in Europe was created in Graz, with its history of conservatism and even Austrofascism… but Körner acted at exactly the right time. Later onwards, we would never have been able to bring it about. Most of the musicians who had been in We Three or the Rudi Josel Trio were involved in the start of the Jazz Institute. We started in 1965 by holding a jazz festival in Graz, the Internationale Jazztage, for which the Jože Privšek Big Band and the Radio Ljubljana Big Band from Slovenia were invited. When my father heard I was going to give up my permanent job as a candidate judge, he was beside himself! Nobody knew what the Jazz Institute’s fate would be… it was a gamble, but one worth taking from my perspective.”

Thus, Harald Neuwirth became the co-founder of the Graz Conservatoire’s Jazz Institute, which was renamed the Jazz Institute of the Music and Performing Arts Academy (Hochschule für Musik und Darstellung) in 1970. From the outset in ’65, he did not only teach the piano, but improvisation, harmony, and other music theory subjects as well. Why did he choose to be a music teacher after having wanted to avoid becoming one at all cost when embarking on his law studies? 

“Well, these were two different concepts. As an 18-year-old, I did not like the prospect of teaching classical piano, but here now was the opportunity to start from scratch and achieve something new; a school programme of jazz music. I relished to that prospect. In Europe, some disparate attempts had been made here and there to create music education for jazz music, but there was no all-comprising pedagogic approach yet. Our only example was the Berklee College of Music in Boston, America. I was eager to bring about a fusion of the European-style classical music education, focusing on technique, and the Anglo-American jazz approach with its heavy emphasis on functional harmony and rhythm."

"I have always stood firm to the belief that studying jazz music without taking classical music into account is just as stupid as ignoring contemporary genres as a classical student. After World War II, Germans and Austrians found they had destroyed the connection to the Jewish folk tradition, which was music of the heart and mind. What was left after the Holocaust, was an arid classical education without any links to wider popular music culture. Listening comprehension is a subject which has been ignored in classical music education as well. I wanted at least to attempt bringing back a little of this much-needed connection. Therefore, our students, whichever instrument they chose, had to study classical subjects as well as jazz music. That way, they were imbued with the best of both worlds.”

His teaching activities at the fledgling jazz academy in Graz did not impede Harald Neuwirth from performing on stage. Between 1966 and 1968, along with the likes of Hans Salomon and his old friend Erich Bachträgl, he joined the main jazz group in Austria at that time: the sextet of trombonist Erich Kleinschuster, which performed in a lot of ORF radio broadcasts from Vienna. 

“But that was too much," Neuwirth recalls. "All week, I was in the car to Vienna and back again. After two years, in which the mutual mistrust between Graz and Vienna was taking its toll on me, I just could not take any more. Originally, Kleinschuster was part of the nucleus of musicians involved in forming the Jazz Institute in Graz, but Erich had had a conflict with Fritz Körner and dropped out. Thereupon, he formed his sextet and did well in radio. Being one of his best friends, I was happy to be in his group. Later onwards, Erich became a producer at ORF, whereas I decided to stay in Graz. After having left the Kleinschuster Sextet, I wanted to continue playing. That is why I created the Harald Neuwirth Quartet in 1970. Using it as a vehicle, I could invite friends from the jazz scene and talented students to perform in Austria and abroad whenever we found the time. Initially, we worked as a quartet. When the later renowned guitarist Harry Pepl joined in 1972, the group was renamed Harald Neuwirth Consort to allow extending the band to five or even more elements. Over the years, dozens of different people played in the consort, some for just a couple of gigs, others for a longer time.”

With his consort, Harald Neuwirth made his debut at the 1970 edition of the Grazer Jazzmesse, presenting a set of new compositions, including a jazz mass for choir and a twelve-piece band. Over the years, the Harald Neuwirth Consort performed on stages all over the world, even in as far away countries as Guatemala, Indonesia, and Malaysia. On many occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, the quintet was present at the annual International Jazz Fair in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. 

“Working as a teacher, I regularly needed the outlet of getting away from the classroom and play. Over the years, I invited many internationally renowned artists to Graz to do gigs with them… Lee Konitz, Ack van Rooyen, Phil Wilson, Allan Botschinsky, Miroslav Vitouš, and many more. The real spirit of jazz is not playing concerts at big venues, but meeting up in a club with some musicians for a couple of days to work on a project… to practice and to play. Whereas the classical repertoire does not change, jazz is vibrant, it is alive! I was always keen to turn theory into practice and to working with different people to gain as much new experiences as possible.”

With Peter Herbolzheimer, c. 1980

Apart from composing for his consort, Neuwirth also worked as a freelance composer and arranger on a wide variety of projects over the years, including writing the music to radio plays broadcasted by Austrian national broadcaster ORF. Moreover, he penned the soundtracks to several TV films. In 1970, Neuwirth was the pianist, arranger, and band leader of Talente ’70, a talent show broadcast by nationwide radio involving concerts in all states of Austria. Artists emerging from ‘Talente ’70’ included Marianne Mendt, Wilfried, and Christina Simon. In 1974, teaming up with co-arrangers Christian Kolonovits and Richard Oesterreicher, Neuwirth orchestrated pop artist Heinrich Walcher’s second LP, ‘Regenbogen’. 

In the world of theatre, between 1970 and 1987, he composed the musical accompaniment to some 25 productions staged at the Graz Theatre, including, Die Reiter and Faust. His theatre compositions were also heard in Vienna’s Volkstheater and Theater in der Josefstadt. For one of his closest friends, playwright Wolfgang Bauer, Neuwirth worked on the piece Memory Hotel, composing and arranging the accompanying music, which was played entirely live on stage by the Grazer Jazz Academy’s Big Band.

Meanwhile, in Graz, Fritz Körner had created a separate Institute for Jazz Theory in 1971, while the conservatoire’s Jazz Institute – the original academy – was placed under a new managing director, Dieter Glawischnig. In 1974, students of the academy rebelled against what they felt was a much too theoretical, Berklee oriented approach of the institute. Thereupon, in 1975, Glawischnig was replaced by Harald Neuwirth, who immediately set about modernising the academy. He included listening practice and rhythm training into the curriculum, whilst jazz chamber music and jazz big band became obligatory elements for every student. Moreover, at Neuwirth’s instigation, the institute appointed the first-ever professorate in Europe for the subject of improvisation. Under Neuwirth’s leadership, the Jazz Institute in Graz developed into Europe’s first complete and independent jazz education including all possible levels of graduation.

“When I took over the directorship, it was obvious that more music practice had to be brought into the curriculum. To expand on what was done in the academy itself, I attempted to found a jazz club in Graz to allow students to perform regularly. Over the years, we had several places, amongst which the Münzl Club, but, unfortunately, none of them lasted very long. In 1978, by creating the Bigband Seminars at the Deutschlandsberg Castle, we were more successful. Led by Peter Herbolzheimer, students practiced their skills at playing in a big band, in which they played along with guest performers such as Ack van Rooyen. After days of preparation at Deutschlandsberg, we had several concerts in Graz and other towns across Styria. These were expensive projects, and we could only go ahead thanks to the sponsorship of the Styrian government. The concerts, however, received much media attention from Austria and abroad, and put our institute in the limelight again as the example of what a jazz academy should be like. In all, we organized five Big Band Seminars, the last one in 1982.”

Gruppe Anonymus featuring the Harald Neuwirth Consort, early 1990s, from left to right - Christian M. Seitelberger (guitar), Alex Deutsch (drums), Winfried Hackl (flute), Harald Neuwirth (piano), and Peter Herbert (bass)

Under Neuwirth’s directorship, the Graz Music Academy at long last agreed to appointing professors for all instrumental subjects in 1981, including Harald Neuwirth himself at the subject of piano. When the ORF Big Band was disbanded in that same year, Neuwirth invited several of its members, including leader and trombonist Erich Kleinschuster and percussionist Erich Bachträgl, to come back to Graz and become professors in their respective subjects. In 1982, all academy professors were invited for a special performance at the Science Ministry in Vienna for the much-respected Minister Hertha Firnberg. 

Feeling hemmed in by the board of the classical part of the academy, which time and again tried to block his initiatives, Harald Neuwirth withdrew as the Jazz Institute’s managing director in 1983. In the following nineteen years, he stayed on at the institute as the professor ordinarius at the subject of jazz piano. Simultaneously, he worked as a teacher of piano and music theory at the Kärntner Landeskonservatorium (Carinthia State Conservatoire) in Klagenfurt for several years from 1987 onwards, exporting the curriculum from Graz to the newly founded jazz department.

At the request of the Graz Jazz Academy, however, Neuwirth returned as the institute’s managing director in 2002. His second spell at the helm of the institute saw the music academy renamed into Kunstuniversität Graz (KUG), or in English; Graz University of Music and Performing Arts. Moreover, under Neuwirth’s supervision, a new reform of the study programme was accomplished, brushing away some of the last elements of inequality between the academy’s classical and jazz departments. He was also responsible for attracting several new teachers to the academy, including Ed Partyka for the subjects of jazz composition and arranging, Dina DeRose for singing, and Howard Curtis for percussion. Finally, Neuwirth retired as the institute’s director and piano professor aged 68 years in December 2007, having worked at the Graz Jazz Academy for 42 consecutive years.

With engineer Gogo Nachtmann (left) and Erich Kleinschuster managing the sound during a performance at the Graz Jazz Sommer Festival (c. 2005)

As a performer, between the late 1980s and the early 2010s, Neuwirth regularly teamed up again with Erich Kleinschuster, who, upon his return to Graz, reformed his jazz sextet. Together, the two old friends played at many festivals, including the Jazzherbst in Salzburg, the Jazzfest in Wiesen, the Vienna Jazz Festival, and the Upper Austrian Jazz Festival in Braunau am Inn as well as the annual Graz Jazz Sommer Festival, which was thought out and organised by Kleinschuster himself. 

“Unfortunately, in recent years (speaking in 2015 - BT), Erich has become too ill to perform any longer, so we have had to give that up. I continue to be a member of the Supervisory Board at the Kunstuniversität. Though we accomplished a lot of our ideals in the music academy over the years, I cannot help being slightly pessimistic about the future. The jazz academy will survive, but with a smaller number of students than before. Moreover, the educational system in Austria is too much oriented towards having fun – and fun does not make good musicians… only practicing does. Austria still has the reputation of a nation of musicians, but the best students at any Austrian music academy today are from the Far East and the Balkans. How to reverse this tendency in the coming years is beyond me.”

Emeritus O. Univ. Prof. Dr. (iur.) Harald Neuwirth lived in Schwanberg, Styria, until his passing in 2023. One of his children, Olga Neuwirth, studied music in San Francisco and Vienna and became a composer in her own right, specializing in avant-garde repertoire.

In Schwanberg (2015)


Harald Neuwirth’s participation as Austria’s conductor in the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest in Ireland is one of only a couple of ‘pop’ side steps in his career. In spite of that, Neuwirth had a long-standing working relationship with Wilfried Scheutz, which began 18 years before the contest in Dublin. 

“In 1970, at the invitation of Evamaria Kaiser, a radio producer from Vienna, I became the musical director of Talente ’70, a talent show aiming at discovering new pop artists across Austria. In the audition in Graz, one of the youngsters who presented himself to us was Wilfried. At the time, he was just 20 years of age. Accompanying himself at the guitar, he performed parodies of traditional Austrian songs. Thanks to the talent show, he made a name for himself in Austrian pop music as a performer of modern folk. A couple of years later, I re-arranged a traditional song for him in rock style, ‘Ziwui Ziwui’ – and it was a major hit success in Austria (in 1974 - BT). In the following years, I wrote most of the arrangements for Wilfried when he performed in Austrian radio with Erich Kleinschuster’s ORF Big Band. I even accompanied him as a pianist when he went on a promotional tour supporting prime minister Kreisky in the run-up to an election. Moreover, in the 1980s, while he was really successful, Wilfried allowed me to regularly send students of mine to go on tour with his band. I was grateful to him for this, because practical experience made them better musicians.”

In 1988, Austrian broadcaster ORF chose Wilfried for the Eurovision Song Contest without a televised selection programme. Subsequently, the singer and his band came up with ‘Lisa Mona Lisa’, which Wilfried co-wrote with his guitarist Klaus Kofler and lyricist Ronnie Herbolzheimer, one of Neuwirth’s former students. The choice for Harald Neuwirth as the musical director for this song may have come as a surprise to outsiders, as the Alpine country's entries in the ten previous Eurovision editions had been conducted by Richard Oesterreicher

“After Talente ’70, I had always stayed in touch with Wilfried,” Neuwirth explains. “Early in 1988, he called me, telling me he had been selected to represent Austria and that he wanted me to write the arrangement to the song and conduct the Eurovision orchestra. For him, I must have been the natural choice, given we had worked together so extensively over the years. Other artists representing Austria previously did not have such a strong connection to an arranger – and, therefore, ORF could make its own choice, Oesterreicher… and why not, because Richard Oesterreicher was more than able to do the job."

"When Wilfried asked me, I immediately agreed. Why hesitate? Commercial music is full of people who do not have the slightest idea what they are doing, so I did not doubt for a minute that I could do the job. Of course, the Eurovision Song Contest was not my world, but it would be interesting to get to know a corner of the business I had never been involved in before. Moreover, I wanted to help Wilfried like I had done in the seventies when I wrote ‘Ziwui Ziwui for him. I wondered if I could make a difference for him by writing an original arrangement – something which stood out, perhaps.”

Talking of Wilfried and the Eurovision Song Contest inevitably amounts to tracing the reasons for the ‘nil points’ and the abysmal 21st position he came away with in Dublin. Neuwirth feels there are several different reasons, the first one being the song, ‘Lisa Mona Lisa’. 

“I do not feel Wilfried should have left Eurovision alone. With the right song – folk pop in the style of ‘Wie a glock'n’ by Marianne Mendt – he could have made a good impression. His problem was that he often wanted to do things he was not able to. Wilfried is a Natursänger, someone who sings instinctively without bothering too much about technique. He could have been a better singer, if he had taken lessons – but he never felt the motivation to do so after his first successes in the business. His ambition always was to sing the blues, but, to my mind, he is not the right performer for that genre. The same is true for ‘Lisa Mona Lisa’, which was what I would call a Heldenlied, an exalted type of romanticising ballad. It was the sort of music for which he had to pretend to be someone else than he really was. He has never been a singer for concert halls with an orchestra or big band. With folk pop, he would have been all right. I cannot help feeling that by choosing this song for the contest, Wilfried took himself too seriously. That was the Urfehler, the initial mistake, he made.”

“Just as ‘Lisa Mona Lisa’ did not offer Wilfried any possibilities on stage, it left me with little opportunities to come up with a striking arrangement. I felt there was just one way to write it. As the Eurovision orchestra included string and brass, I wrote parts for both sections – that was obligatory (in fact it was not! - BT). I tried to create some sort of build-up by enlarging the orchestral backing as the song goes on. The rhythm elements were pre-recorded on a click track. In Dublin, I had two short orchestral rehearsals, which were more than enough to get the orchestra to play the way I wanted them to. Acoustically, there were no problems."

"As for conducting, I had never taken any lessons in that. It was not my main interest in music. I had led student big bands before – Eurovision was the first and only time I conducted an orchestra including a string and a brass section… but then, there was a click-track, which made a conductor more or less redundant. In front of the orchestra in Ireland, I kept a low profile by indicating the correct rhythm in the simplest way possible, just as Peter Herbolzheimer always did when he led a big band. Anything more than that would have been superfluous and, moreover, could have created confusion with the musicians.”

Apart from Wilfried, who, according to Neuwirth, was already tense in rehearsals, the Austrian Eurovision delegation was having a relaxed week in Ireland.

“Representing the ORF, there were producer Peter Hofbauer and speaker Ernst Grissemann. Grissemann was not really a friend of mine. Jazz was not his genre of music and, as a result, I was not a part of his musical scope. Wilfried’s band was having a good time, and so was I. I liked being in Ireland again. I am a fan of this country, which I had extensively roamed on previous holidays. Music is part of the soul of the Irish. In every pub, there is someone at the piano singing beautifully. It has always fascinated me how sharp the contrast is with Austria, because we do not seem to be able to come up with anything else but dreadful song lyrics and hopeless piano accompaniment by classically trained musicians without any connection to pop…”

Wilfried Scheutz at the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin

In the television concert, Harald Neuwirth wore a striking red and white jacket. When asked about it, he laughs out loudly. “I once bought it in a second-hand shop in America long before there was any talk of the Eurovision Song Contest. I have never been the kind of person to feel any pride about representing one’s country, but now that I would be doing just that, this jacked in the colours of the Austrian flag seemed like a more appropriate choice than just another black suit with a tie. With this Austrian Rot-Weiss-Rot, I was hoping to be a little helpful to all of us.”

Anyone watching the Eurovision Song Contest that evening could notice that the singer representing Austria was extremely nervous. Wilfried’s vocal performance was plainly terrible. “He had been tense all week”, Neuwirth comments, “but when the big night was there and he saw this giant arena filled to the last seat, his nerves must have turned into outright fear. Wilfried has always been someone for a small stage, where he can charm the audience by his presentation. This large, commercial event was simply too much for him."

"When he started singing, of course he noticed it was not good… and then he started thinking – which, given his lack of singing technique, was not the best idea, as he then lost the last bit of his natural charm and, while forgetting to breathe, sang even worse. It was obvious to me that he had not been feeling at ease during rehearsals, but nobody could have predicted he would sing as badly as he did in the live broadcast. He added insult to injury by trying to look relaxed, leaning against the piano. He tried to act a singer. Even in this song, he could have put in more of his soul by leaving alone the rhythmical, typically German approach, replacing it with parlando, something he was really good at. I can safely say that was the worst performance in Wilfried’s career. Already during the song, I noticed it was not good. I had one of the ears of the headphones off, so I could listen to him while conducting the orchestra. I really felt for Wilfried. After the broadcast was over, I went with the rest of the band to a bar in Dublin, but, as you can imagine, the atmosphere was killed.

Apart from the choice of song and Wilfried’s below-par vocal performance, Neuwirth feels there is one more reason for the ‘zero’ in Dublin. “When we left Ireland, I bought a local newspaper at the airport. In it, there was a headline, "Austria gets no points," implying that, in the aftermath of the Waldheim Affair, Austria deserved to be punished for creating the Waldheim monster (In the run-up to the 1986 Austrian presidential elections, it had come about that conservative politician Kurt Waldheim had played a less than favourable role in Yugoslavia and Greece during World War II. The revelations led to an international scandal, even more so when the Austrian voters duly elected him. In the following years, more and more details about Waldheim’s war record surfaced, though he was exonerated of most allegations in the course of 1988 - BT). I am convinced the rest of Europe felt the urge to take revenge on Austria in all sorts of ways. Wilfried and the rest of us had to pay dearly for this. True, ‘Lisa Mona Lisa’ was not a brilliant song, but it was certainly not the worst entry in the contest. There were songs taking part which were much more naïve. As the Eurovision Song Contest was intended as a competition of composers rather than performers, Wilfried deserved more than this zero.”

It took many years and the intervention of Wilfried himself to convince Harald Neuwirth to do an interview for this website. “It is the first time I am being interviewed about the contest,” Neuwirth admits. “Of course, it is not something I am looking back on fondly. I more or less deleted it from my system. Believe it or not, I had never watched the performance until you showed it to me on YouTube, just now. It has brought back lots of memories."

"What I feel about there being no longer an orchestra in Eurovision? Well, it was a logical development given the ever growing amount of technical additions to modern popular music. Moreover, music has become bureaucratised. There is no room for an orchestra in such a set-up. When Conchita Wurst won it (in 2014 - BT), I was positively surprised. I knew of her, as she had studied fashion design in Graz. Of course, her management did a good job at selling her story, but, regardless of everything surrounding her performance, did you notice how well she sang? I wonder who taught her that. Being able to deliver such a fantastic vocal performance on that huge stage was no mean achievement!”


Wolfgang Bauer (1941-2005), Austrian playwright and friend of Harald Neuwirth from their mutual student days in Graz, once wrote: “The things he plays, however easy and playful it all may seem, are always the fruit of restless toiling. When preparing a low-key poetry lecture with jazz music, he will go about with the earnestness and acrimony as if a grand première is at hand. Nothing is left to chance – even in the case of piano improvisation, he prefers to talk through the content in advance. Without a fundament one cannot play – that is his creed.” (1990)

Former student at the Graz Jazz Academy and co-author of ‘Lisa Mona Lisa’, Ronnie Herbolzheimer, “He was one of the best teachers I ever had – one who, like any good teacher, attempts at making himself redundant by sharing with his students the knowledge needed to walk the road alone. The subject of harmony, which many experts like to turn into a secret science of endless complexness, simply to keep their lectures running and hold onto their academic position as long as possible… well, whoever was taught by Neuwirth, mastered it quickly and really got to the core of it. “Have you understood?”, he would say. “Well, now, you need to practice, and listen – listen – listen – listen analytically!” In the days in which ideologists were in power, Neuwirth opened the ears of his students to the artistic and practical aspects of jazz.” (2004)


Country – Austria
Song title – “Lisa Mona Lisa”
Rendition – Wilfried Scheutz
Lyrics – Ronnie Herbolzheimer / Klaus E. Kofler / Wilfried Scheutz
Composition – Ronnie Herbolzheimer / Klaus E. Kofler / Wilfried Scheutz
Studio arrangement – Harald Neuwirth
Live orchestration – Harald Neuwirth
Conductor – Harald Neuwirth
Score – 21st place (0 votes)

  • Bas Tukker interviewed Harald Neuwirth in Schwanberg, Styria (Austria), August 2015
  • Thanks to Wilfried Scheutz (†) for bringing me in touch with Harald Neuwirth
  • Wolfgang Bauer, “Gelernter Zauberer”, in: Die Steirische, June 7th, 1990, pg. 12
  • Ronnie Herbolzheimer, “Ein Leben als Musiker, Lehrer und Überzeugungstäter”, in: Leibnitz Aktuell, 2004 (exact date unknown), pg. 20
  • Peter Vujica, “Revolte gegen die Theorie”, in: Kleine Zeitung (Graz), June 7th, 1974, pg. 19
  • (anonymous), “Harte Kleinarbeit am lockeren Schwing”, in: Neue Musikzeitung, September 8th, 1979
  • All photos courtesy of Harald Neuwirth