A Sound Shaped by Time and Tools, What Makes the Vienna Philharmonic So Distinctive

By Michael Cooper

‘The “Vienna sound” has been the subject of reams of music criticism, academic research, acoustical experiments and more than a little debate. Not everyone agrees on precisely what it is — it is sometimes described as plush, warm and rich or sumptuous — but many listeners say that they know it when they hear it. The “specific sound” of the Vienna Philharmonic was cited this year when it won the $1 million Birgit Nilsson Prize, the largest in the classical music world. And when it won this year’s Herbert von Karajan Prize, the orchestra was praised for managing “to preserve its unique sound like no other.”’

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175th Anniversary Of  The Vienna Philharmonic

This year the Vienna Philharmonic celebrates its 175th anniversary. 1842 was also the year of the founding of the New York Philharmonic. This led to a joint exhibition that opened on February 22 in the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York. On March 29, the exhibition Vienna and New York: 175 Years of Two Philharmonics will open in the foyer of the Haus der Musik in Vienna, and can be viewed free of charge until January 2018.

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Review: The Vienna Philharmonic Adds New Work, and Women

By James R. Oestreich

‘The annual visit of the Vienna Philharmonic to Carnegie Hall, with Franz Welser-Möst conducting three splendid concerts over the weekend, brought bonuses historical, musical and educational. Like the New York Philharmonic, the Vienna is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, and the two orchestras have assembled a compact joint exhibition of archival documents and photographs, which opened on Feb. 22 at the Austrian Cultural Forum in Midtown and will travel to Vienna on March 28.’

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Breathlessly Spiraling Bach: The 8 Best Classical Music Moments This Week

By James R. Oestreich

VIENNA PHILHARMONIC MASTER CLASS, FEB. 23 An Orchestra of One ‘It was a marvelous demonstration of complete musicianship in Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing, and the students, alumni of Carnegie’s National Youth Orchestra, were agog. Dieter Flury, a principal flutist of the Vienna Philharmonic, had been using his instrument to help disentangle tricky solo passages in pieces the young flutists were working on, but when a Mozart concerto entered the mix, he casually played along from memory, compressing the various orchestral parts into a single hyperactive line on the spot. What better way to impress on students the need to listen closely to their colleagues and to come to know not just their own parts but the piece as a whole?

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Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Rosamunde Overture, Time Recycling, Ein Heldenleben

By Thomas Phillips

‘René Staar’s Time Recycling (2013) is a masterclass in post-modern eclecticism. It opens with Varèse- like attacks and also demonstrates mastery of spectral techniques. Staar (born in 1951 in Graz), a VPO violinist, builds and demolishes textures, dividing instruments into small groups working simultaneously using extended techniques: flutists blew down their instruments, and violinists did percussion duty. The piece also calls for some theatrics, players standing up suddenly or blowing whistles. Staar was present to receive acclaim from audience and colleagues.’

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Transfigured? Great!

By Fred Kirshnit

‘The Vienna Philharmonic is committed to the best possible sound, has held its prominent position for well over a century and a half and is, in fact, exactly the same age as the New York Philharmonic. Since the end of World War II, the orchestra has had different conductors on an ad hoc basis, chosen exclusively by the orchestra members. Their sound is further nurtured and husbanded by having male relatives of current players training for and then assuming regular positions as their family members retire. In furtherance of this unique, hot-housed sound, many instrumentalists are cautioned to always play older (or older styled) instruments, particularly in the brass section where only particular manufacturers are sanctioned. This attention to detail is very much appreciated by audiences, even if many of them have no idea how this unique sonority is fashioned.’

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Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall – Verklärte Nacht & Schubert’s Great C-major Symphony

By Susan Stempleski

‘The program began with a moving and memorable account of Arnold Schoenberg’s ultra-romantic Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Franz Welser-Möst led the VPO’s strings in an incandescent and widely-expressive performance. Responding to Welser-Möst’s exquisitely refined and subtle gestures, the stellar ensemble gave its all without sacrificing any of the chamber-like qualities of the work (the original was for string sextet). Throughout this ravishing reading the musicians played this poetic piece (based on Richard Dehmel’s prose) with easy virtuosity and opulence of tone.’

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Schubert + Staar + (Strauss x 2) = Vienna Philharmonic and Franz Welser-Möst at Carnegie Hall

By Jacob Slattery

‘Quickly approaching its 175th anniversary, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has built one of the most enviable reputations of any performing arts group in the world. The orchestra spent much of the 19th and early 20th centuries premiering works by composers that are often thought of now as repertory – Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, two Brahms Symphonies, a bunch of Strauss II’s walzer – but the orchestra currently spends most of its time perfecting works by old masters. So it was all the more intriguing to hear the VPO performing new(ish) music straight from its own bloodline (René Staar) under the direction of Maestro Franz Welser-Möst alongside works by Schubert, Richard Strauss and, inevitably, Strauss II in their first concert of 2017 at Carnegie Hall.’

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Review: Vienna Philharmonic Brings World-Class Music-Making to New York

By Jose Andrade

‘One of the great orchestras in classical music today, the Vienna Philharmonic, is on a brief tour of the United States this winter, and thankfully, New York is their first stop where they presented a series of three concerts at Carnegie Hall. Headed by Franz Welser-Möst, their first performance on February 24 brought us two familiar pieces by Franz Schubert and Richard Strauss, as well as the U.S. premiere of René Staar’s Time Recycling.’

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