The religious music composed by an Austrian chazan (cantor) and composer found its way into synagogues all over the Western world and became a standard part of the cantorial repertoire: Salomon Sulzer (1804-1890), born in the Jewish community of Hohenems (Vorarlberg) was invited to Vienna at the age of 22 to officiate as a cantor for the consecration of the new synagogue in the Seitenstettengasse and he officiated there for 55 years. Together with Rabbi Isaac Noah Mannheimer (1973-1865) he was responsible for the reshaping of the liturgy for the Viennese community. Sulzer, an outstanding singer and pupil of acknowledged masters, tried to harmonise traditional melodies with aesthetic pleasure: "I want to restore them to their original purity – both musically and textually – in a manner that accords with the laws of harmony". Jews and non-Jews came to the Seitenstettengasse to hear Sulzer sing and Franz Schubert said, after hearing Sulzer perform one of his German songs, "Now for the first time I understand my own music and what it is that gives significance to the words of my songs." The composer Franz Liszt was another of his admirers. Sulzer published his own compositions and the works he had commissioned in two volumes of "Shir Zion".
Although some Viennese Jews felt that Sulzer's music sounded too assimilated and un-Jewish, others had shown their appreciation of music much earlier when subscribing for Mozart's concerts. The Jewish community asked Beethoven in 1825 to compose a cantata for the dedication of the synagogue a year later. He declined, but Franz Schubert wrote "Tov Lehodot" (prayer) for the choir of the synagogue.
On a lighter weight and well beloved by millions of Viennese, Jews composed many of the well-beloved "Wienerlieder", songs performed in wine gardens. Gustav Pick, the author of the "Fiakerlied", Adolfi Hirsch and Alexander Krakauer who compared his beloved Vienna with paradise, deserve a special mention. During the First World War, the Wienerlied had to express patriotism. An outstanding example is "Draussen im Schönbrunner Park" by Fritz Grünbaum and Ralph Bernatzky (1884-1957), which praised Emperor Franz Joseph and assured him of the efforts of his people so the "dear good old gentleman" can sleep in peace in his Schönbrunn Palace.
Also in the world of operetta many Jews figured prominently. Although Richard Strauss' Jewish descent is disputed, major operetta composers Leo Fall (1873-1925), Edmund Eysler (1874-1949), Oskar Straus (1870-1954) and Emmerich Kálmán (1882-1953) and the librettist Viktor Leon are inseparably associated with Viennese operetta.
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) came to Vienna from Bohemia (a province of Austro-Hungaria) as a 15-year old pupil to study at the music academy where his great talent was recognized by opera composer Karl Goldmark (1830-1915). His first professional engagements were as a conductor in Bad Hall. He returned to Vienna for a permanent position in 1897. His ten-year directorship at the Vienna Opera brought fundamental changes in performances and standards. Aiming for excellence, he proved himself as an organizer and musical leader. His ideals were upheld by the conductors of his school, namely Artur Bodanzky, Otto Klemperer and Bruno Walter. As a composer Mahler was the last of the eminent Austrian symphonists and his "Lied von der Erde" ("Song of the Earth") and the "Ninth Symphony" hinted at the transformation of music which was to result in Schoenberg's twelve-tone theory. The original contact between Mahler and Schoenberg had been made by Alexander von Zemlinsky, the teacher of Schoenberg and of Alma Schindler, before she married Mahler. Zemlinsky was from a Sephardi Jewish family.
Much of Arnold Schoenberg‘s (1874-1951) early music is linked to Austrian surroundings and echoes its traditional sounds. In 1922 he started writing the drama "Der Biblische Weg" ("The Bible Way"), the forerunner of his opera "Moses and Aaron". After experiencing anti-Semitism when on holiday in Salzburg and later in Berlin, he dedicated much of his work to Jewish topics. Schoenberg's circle in Vienna included such figures as David Josef Bach, Egon Wellesz (1885-1974), Erwin Stein, Paul A. Pisk, Heinrich Jalowetz and Hanns Eisler (1898-1962).
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), who had his first success as the composer of a trio for piano at the age of twelve, Rudolf Réthi (1885-1957) and Ernst Krenek should be mentioned for their contribution to modern music as well.
Jewish virtuosi include Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) who spent some of his decisive creative years in Vienna. Eduard Steuermann, Rudolf Serkin, the pianist Alfred Grünfeld, Rudolf Kolisch, the cellist David Popper and the famous violinist Joseph Joachim were some of the greatest virtuosi of the late 19th and early 20th century.
The founder of the Viennese School of Musicology who held the chair of musicology at Vienna University from 1882 to 1927 was Guido Adler (1855-1941). This pioneer in musicology continued his work and research until 1938 when he was forbidden to teach and publish. Emil Hertzka, who made "Universal-Edition" into a leading firm, was the main publisher of the new trends in music.