Principal Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Principal Guest Conductor: Yakov Kreizberg
Honorary Conductors: George Prêtre, Wolfgang Sawallisch
“The Vienna Symphony Orchestra is like the Viennese Alpine water” – they provide a large city with the most important staple food in highest quality, at an affordable price and to an extent that reaches all the population. This quality has been consequently cultivated around the world since 1900 – supporting Vienna’s distinctive role as a city of music.
The Vienna Symphony Orchestra is the concert orchestra of the City of Vienna, being responsible for the greater part of the musical life of the capital city. Its activities are diverse, whereby the traditional cultivation of the Viennese sound quality combined with new forms of music and their presentation occupy a central position.
Consequently, the season is opened with a spectacular ball – the orchestra’s “Night of the VSO” into the new season. A further innovation is the Discussion Concert Series – “The Different Concert” in which the music is introduced in a witty, intelligent way while the Chamber Music Series displays the broad range of the musicians’
personalities, from baroque style, Schrammel music to modern jazz.
Within in the project “Touch the Orchestra”, musicians go to elementary schools, holding workshops in small groups for kids. The Vienna Symphony makes approximately 160 appearances each year with concerts and opera performances as well as 50 chamber concerts and workshops. These are arranged by the Musikverein,
the Konzerthaus and, since 1980, by the orchestra itself with four different concert series. In addition, numerous tours are undertaken throughout Europe and overseas countries. Furthermore, the orchestra has been “Orchestra in Residence” at the Bregenz Festival since 1946, where it performs in a majority of opera and concert productions. With the beginning of 2006, a new challenge has arisen as the orchestra performs in many productions at the Theater an der Wien which has resumed its former function as an opera house.
At the close of the nineteenth century the time seemed right for the founding of a new Viennese orchestra. Its function was to be two-fold; to present orchestral concerts of a popular kind and, in addition, to provide a platform for the world premieres of the contemporary music of the time. In October 1900, the newly formed orchestra, with the name Vienna Concert Society, gave its first public performance at the Musikverein under the direction of Ferdinand Löwe.
Today the orchestra can look back on an eventful history, an outward sign being the several alterations that its name has undergone. Many compositions that are part of today’s repertoire – among them Bruckner’s 9th Symphony, Arnold Schönberg’s Gurrelieder, Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and Franz Schmidt’s
The Book with the Seven Seals – received their world premiere by the VSO. During the First World War, the orchestra was saved from being disbanded only by a fusion with the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra, founded in 1913. In 1944 however, the orchestra’s activities came to a halt for eight months.
In the years following 1945, thanks to the efforts of the Principal Conductor Hans Swarowsky and Josef Krips, the orchestra was rebuilt.
In the past, renowned personalities such as Bruno Walter, Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Oswald Kabasta, George Szell and Hans Knappertsbusch left decisive imprints on the orchestra. In later years it was mainly the Principal Conductors Herbert von Karajan (1950-1960) and Wolfgang Sawallisch (1960-1970) who formed the tone quality of the orchestra. Following them, the position was filled – after the brief return of Josef Krips – by Carlo Maria Giuliniand Gennadij Roshdestvenskij. George Prêtre followed until 1991, preferring to describe his post as “Principal Guest Conductor”. His successor was Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. During these years, guest
stars such as Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado and Sergiu Celibidache celebrated their many notable successes. From 1997 until the end of 2004, the Principal Conductor was Vladimir Fedosejev, and commencing with the 2005/2006 season, the post has been filled by Fabio Luisi. Additionally, Yakov Kreizberg has been Principal Guest Conductor since October 2003.
The artistic standard of the VSO is documented by a large number of high-grade CDs. The archives in the Vienna Konzerthaus are a goldmine of original and digitalized historical documents – from tape recordings and photos to newspaper critiques. They can be visited, by appointment, for research purposes or simply to browse amongst the exhibits.
Superfund as new partner of the VSO
With the beginning of the 2006/2007 season, the internationally active investment group Superfund has been new partner of the VSO. Main goal of the long term agreement is the permanent support of all artistic activities of the orchestra. Consequently, Superfund provides for a tangible and intangible value to the sustainable participation
of a renowned orchestra with a long tradition on its way into the future. The Superfund group (www.supferfund.com) with its 15 subsidiaries and over 50.000 customers ranks among the largest and most successful investment companies specialized on futures funds. The funds managed by Superfund have been highly awarded and can be found at top positions of rankings published by international investment services.
Orchestra of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) and ever since has been gaining status as one of the most versatile orchestras in Austria. Since its foundation, the Vienna RSO has concentrated mainly on cultivating contemporary music. Under its chief conductors Milan Horvat, Leif Segerstam, Lothar Zagrosek, Pinchas Steinberg, and Dennis Russell Davies, the ORF Orchestra continued to expand its repertoire to include music from the pre-classical period all the way to the avant-garde. As of September 1, 2002, Bertrand de Billy has been Chief Conductor of the Vienna RSO.
In addition to its own concert series at the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the orchestra has been performing regularly at major festivals in Austria and abroad, with particularly strong ties to the Salzburg Festival.
Extensive touring took the Vienna RSO last to Japan, furthermore to the USA, South America and Asia, as well as to many countries throughout Europe. Guest performers of the Vienna RSO have included such famous artists as Leonard Bernstein, Ernest Bour, Andrew Davis, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Christoph Eschenbach, Michael Gielen, Hans Werner Henze, Ernst Krenek, Bruno Maderna, Krzysztof Penderecki, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Guiseppe Sinopoli, Hans Swarowsky and Jeffrey Tate.
Starting with the season 2009/2010 the Hungarian composer and conductor Peter Eötvös will become first guest conductor. Cornelius Meister - currently Music Director in Heidelberg - will take over the Chief Conductor position starting with the season 2010/11.
Over the past years the Vienna RSO has also established its position as opera orchestra with productions at the Theater an der Wien. Since 2007 the orchestra has been closely cooperating with that theater.
The orchestra's comprehensive recordings for the ORF and CD productions cover music of all genres, including many first recordings of representatives of the classical modern era in Austria and Austrian contemporary composers.
Part of the philosophy of the Vienna RSO is to pay special attention to up-and-coming young musicians. Examples that the orchestra is keen on performing this task are, for instance, the Orchestra Academy, the final concerts of the university’s Conductors Class, rehearsals for children, and the series “Classic Temptation“: The latter are talk concerts at the ORF RadioKulturhaus and the Theater an der Wien, where children and youngsters are given an introduction to exemplary works of musical history.
Concentus musicus Wien (= CMW), founded in 1953 by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, is largely responsible for launching the authentic instrument movement and, forty-six years later, remains at the forefront of historical performing practice.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt drew the pioneering instrumentalists of Concentus musicus Wien from the ranks of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. They came together as a specialist ensemble to play early music on period instruments, "not for historical but for artistic reasons, since the music of every period can best be brought to life and is most convincingly realized using the resources of the time". Manuscripts were discovered and copied meticulously by hand and instruments secured. Intensive rehearsal and experimentation followed. The group gave its first public concert at the Schwarzenberg Palace in Vienna in 1957, an event that marked the start of an annual concert series.
Concentus musicus Wien made its first recordings for what was then called Telefunken in 1963. Around that same time, the ensemble made concert tours all over Western Europe, performing repertoire including Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and music from the Austrian Baroque. Their first tour of the USA and Canada took place in 1966.
In 1970 Concentus musicus Wien began recording the complete Bach cantatas for Teldec, an ambitious, long-term project completed in 1989 and one which to this day represents the only complete Bach cantata recordings on period instruments. At the same time, they continued to build up their own concert series at the Vienna Musikverein and to record works by Monteverdi, Purcell, J.S. Bach, Georg Frideric Handel and Mozart. Their recordings of J.S. Bach's B minor Mass (BWV 232) and of Monteverdi's three operas and Vespro della Beata Virgine (1610) are universally regarded as milestones of early music performance.
Their recordings continue to win prizes on a regular basis: Mozart's Lucio Silla and G.F. Handel's Theodora, for example, were awarded the German Record Critics' Prize in 1990 and 1991 respectively. The complete Bach cantatas received a Gramophone Award for Special Achievement in 1990. More recent accolades include the 1995 Cannes Classical Award for J.S. Bach's St. John Passion (BWV 245) and top awards from three different French music publications in 1996-97 for Mozart's Il re Pastore, Antonio Vivaldi concertos and J.S. Bach motets.
Concentus musicus Wien continues to appear regularly in Vienna and to undertake tours throughout Europe. The ensemble's 1999-2000 season features performances of works by Bach, Haydn and Mozart in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK with soloists Cecilia Bartoli, Marjana Lipovšek and Christoph Prégardien. The ensemble has performed at the Styriate Festival in Graz every year for the past fourteen years.
In 1998 Teldec Classics International celebrated the 40th anniversary of Das Alte Werk, in which recordings with Concentus musicus Wien play a central role. Concentus musicus Wien's most recent recording releases include Haydn's Harmoniemesse, Te Deum and Cantata Qual dubbio ormai and Schubert's Magnificat and Intende voci coupled with Haydn's Schöpfungsmesse.