A Brief History
Compiled by Charles Zahra
Last updated: June 2013
Robert Stolz was a Viennese composer and conductor. Born in Graz on 25th August 1880, he met and was befriended by Johann Strauss, who encouraged him to take an active interest in the kind of music so popular in Vienna at the time. Stolz wrote more than 2000 songs, 50 operettas, and scores for over 100 films. He conducted Viennese music all over the world winning the hearts of millions of music lovers. He is known as the last of the waltz kings. Stolz also composed the United Nations Anthem, the Olympic March, and Israel's famous song "Follow the Sun". Shortly before his death in 1975, he said, "I'm nearly 95 now and my century of waltz has almost run full cycle. If my melodies have found a place in the hearts of the people, then I know that I have fulfilled my mission in life and will not have lived in vain."
The Robert Stolz Viennese Music Society Inc was established in Melbourne, Australia, at the gala inaugural dinner at the Regent Hotel on 12th May 1984 at the instigation of Robert Stolz's widow Einzi and two local music enthusiasts, Mrs Hedy Holt and Mr Roger Prochazka. Then on her second visit here, Einzi Stolz wanted to encourage the performance of her late husband's work in Australia. The Society was officially registered and incorporated as a non-profit organisation in September 1985. The original name, "The Australian Robert Stolz Society Inc", was changed to the current name in 2005. Society's membership grew from the initial 30 odd members to some 90 at the turn of the century and has lately stabilized at well over 100 members. The committee of management is headed by President Ian Lowe. Being an accomplished singer himself, as well as a teacher of music and singing, Ian is a driving force in developing concert programs.
The music. Since its founding the Society has become an integral part of Melbourne's musical scene with the staging of many successful concerts at a variety of venues. Continuing public interest in concerts over the years is a testament of successes the Society's founders and committees had in promoting lighthearted Viennese and classical music in a relaxed and happy atmosphere, whilst conveying some of Stolz's joy of life & laughter. The Society has become a sponsor of numerous music organisations in Melbourne. It is also helping talented young Australian singers and instrumentalists to establish and further their musical careers.
The founders: A history of the Society wouldn't be complete without a few words about its founders, JUDr Vratja (Roger) Prochazka and his wife Hedy Holt-Prochazka. Through their common interests and middle European background, Roger and Hedy met in Melbourne in the late 1970s and married in 1983.
Roger was born near Prague in Czechoslovakia into a music loving family in 1918 (!). After the 1948 political upheaval, he emigrated to Austria and then to Melbourne. Here he ran a successful seafood import business and followed his musical interests. Roger was the Society's first President (until 2005) and then Vice President (until 2010). He continued to be actively involved in the selection of programs as the Society's Artistic adviser. He passed away suddenly on 10 June 2013, aged 95.
Hedy, born in Bratislava, also in the then Czechoslovakia, became a successful concert singer in nearby Vienna. In Australia since 1949, Hedy resumed her singing at concerts and at the ABC radio. She also started teaching at the Melba Conservatorium of Music and worked continually as the Society's Artistic Director. She passed away in 2007, aged 89.