The members of an orchestra stand on the podium in an old concert hall.

Wiener Philharmoniker © Lois Lammerhuber

Wiener Philharmoniker

Hardly any other orchestra is more closely and enduringly associated with the history and tradition of European classical music than the Vienna Philharmonic. In the course of its more than 180 years of existence, the orchestra has left its mark on world musical events. To this day, performers and conductors emphasise the “Viennese sound” as an outstanding quality feature of the orchestra.

The fascination that the Vienna Philharmonic has exerted on the greatest composers and conductors as well as audiences all over the world since it was founded by Otto Nicolai in 1842 is based on the homogeneity of its music-making, which has been consciously cultivated and passed on from one generation to the next, and also on its unique history and structure. The fundamental pillars of the “philharmonic idea”, which is still valid today, are the basic democratic structure, which places all artistic and organisational decisions in the hands of the orchestra members, as well as the close symbiosis with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. The statutes of the Vienna Philharmonic stipulate that only a member of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra can become a member of the Vienna Philharmonic.

Another special feature is the fact that the members of the orchestra are responsible for organising the concerts democratic association structure, the orchestra members were responsible for organising the concerts, the works to be performed and the choice of conductors and soloists. In 1860, subscription concerts were introduced, for which a conductor was engaged for at least one season. This created a solid economic basis that still exists today. From 1933, the Vienna Philharmonic switched to the guest conductor system. This enabled a wide range of artistic encounters and music-making with the most renowned conductors of the respective era. International concert activity began at the beginning of the 20th century. It took the orchestra across all continents with regular guest performances in Germany, Japan, the USA and China. The relationship with Japan and the Japanese audience is so close that even in the years of the pandemic 2020 and 2021, they were able to hold their Japan tours under special safety precautions and in quarantine.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Academy was founded in 2018. The academy members are selected by audition in a rigorous, internationally orientated process and receive two years of training at the highest level. All members of the first and second cohorts (2019–2021 and 2021–2023) have successfully completed their training. 

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has made it its mission to bring the ever-present humanitarian message of music and social responsibility into everyday life and into people's consciousness. From the very beginning, social and charitable awareness, commitment to people in need and the promotion of young musicians have been part of the orchestra’s self-image.

As of: December 2023

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