Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra overview

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is probably the best known of all Viennese orchestras and generally regarded as one of the finest concert orchestras for classical music in the world. The musicians of the Vienna Philharmonic are chosen from the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. Before applying for a membership in the Vienna Philharmonic each musician has to prove his musicianship by performing no less than three years in the Vienna State Opera.

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Origin: Vienna / Austria
Home Base: Vienna Musikverein
Year of Foundation: 1842
Founder: Otto Nicolai

History of the the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was established in 1842 by Otto Nicolai as the Philharmonische Academie, an independent orchestra functioning in a democratic manner. Nicolai’s departure from the orchestra in 1847 almost resulted in the discontinuation of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, with the orchestra remaining largely inactive until 1860. As a result, the decision was made by members of the orchestra to elect yearly a principal conductor who would conduct a series of subscription concerts. Subsequent conductors were Karl Anton Eckert, Hans Richter, Gustav Mahler, Felix Weingartner, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Clemens Strauss. After 1933 the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra abandoned the principle of a single conductor and started to work with guest conductors. Some of these have been the world’s best known conductors including Richard Strauss, Arturo Toscanini, Hans Knappertsbusch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Karl Böhm, John Barbirolli, Herbert von Karajan, Carlo Maria Giulini, Georg Solti, Erich Kleiber, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Pierre Boulez, Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, and Daniel Barenboim and Simon Rattle. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has premiered many of the most important and best loved orchestral works including the 2nd and 3rd Symphonies of Johannes Brahms, and Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 during its “Golden Age” with Hans Richter on the podium.

Sound of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is known for its characteristic sound. This is due to the usage of specially chosen instruments and playing styles, which serve to differentiate the sound of the Vienna Philharmonic from the sound of other orchestras. Particularly the use of percussion and brass instruments is quite unique when compared with other famous orchestras. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, for instance, uses natural goat and not synthetic hides on its timpani. Another example would be the usage of the Viennese Oboe, an instrument that is quite different from the generally accepted French-manufactured oboe. Further differences can be distinguished in the string section; unlike other orchestras, where each musician plays on his own instrument, in the Vienna Philharmonic all instruments are owned by the orchestra. Therefore, these instruments been passed from musician to musician over the centuries and they are responsible in part for the orchestra’s recognizable string sound. The long tenure and training process assures that each player is well versed in the playing style of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra before entering the stage.