Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

   Today one of the world’s most celebrated music ensembles, the Philharmonic was drawn together for the first time in 1842 by the composer and conductor Carl Otto Nicolai (1810–1849), who was then choir director for the Imperial Chapel. His purpose was to give “philharmonic concerts,” with his musicians coming largely from the orchestra of the Imperial Court Opera. Even today, many of the Vienna Philharmonic’s instrumentalists play in the pit of the Vienna State Opera. Their first performance took place on 28 March. Subscriptions to the concerts have been sold since 1860.
   Since 1870 the Philharmonic, when in Vienna, has performed in its present location, the Society of the Friends of Music hall. It has had a long line of distinguished conductors, among them Gustav Mahler (1898 to 1901), Felix Weingartner (1908–1927), Wilhelm Furtwängler, Clemens Krauss (1930–33), Claudio Abbado, and, on occasion, Herbert von Karajan. Only guest conductors, invited by the orchestra, now direct it in the 10 or so subscription concerts it presents, along with performances for special occasions, such as on New Year’s Day.
   The repertory of the orchestra is heavily weighted toward the central European classical tradition, with Austrian masters dominating. The uniquely mellow and effortless sound that characterizes the ensemble stems in part from the rigorous selection procedure that determines membership and also from the unity of the group’s schooling. Training takes place in Austrian musical academies, found in Vienna (1817), Salzburg (Mozarteum, 1870), and Graz (1815), and even in musicians’ families. Instrumentalists are sometimes the offspring of fathers who were, or are, members of the orchestra. The Philharmonic engaged its first female member in 1997.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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